San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker apologized after he and teammate Boris Diaw, a fellow Frenchman, were seen in separately-published photos with controversial comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala making what some perceive as an anti-Semitic gesture.
The photos were published by media outlets in France on Sunday and caused a national stir. Parker and Diaw are seen making "quenelle" symbols with their arms.
The gesture is considered an anti-Semitic symbol in France. Others believe it is a symbol of general defiance.
"While this gesture has been part of French culture for many years, it was not until recently that I learned of the very negative concerns associated with it," Parker said in the statement Monday.
"When l was photographed making that gesture three years ago, I thought it was part of a comedy act and did not know that it could be in any way offensive or harmful. Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions.
"Hopefully this incident will serve to educate others that we need to be more aware that things that may seem innocuous can actually have a history of hate and hurt."
NBA officials told ESPN.com that they are gather more information before commenting.
The photos with Parker and Diaw were published a day after French soccer player Nicolas Anelka made the same gesture after scoring a goal for his English Premier team, West Brom, against West Ham. Anelka said the gesture was meant as a salute to the comedian, known as Dieudonne.
Anti-Semitic speech and symbols are prohibited in France. Dieudonne has been convicted of similar speech in the past. Manuel Valls, France's interior minister, has said he seeks to ban Dieudonne from performing in public due to safety concerns.