NICE, France – French soccer club Nice has taken a resolute stand against antisemitism by suspending defender Youcef Atal until further notice after he shared an antisemitic message on social media. The incident has sparked a preliminary investigation and a wave of responses from sports authorities and fans.
The club released a statement announcing the suspension, expressing their response to the situation. Nice confirmed that they had engaged in a discussion with Atal and he subsequently issued an apology for his actions.
“The player acknowledged his error by quickly withdrawing the sharing of the publication and has offered a written and public apology,” Nice stated. “Nevertheless, given the nature of the publication shared, and its seriousness, the club has made the decision to immediately take the first disciplinary measures against the player, prior to any action that may be taken by sporting and legal authorities. To this end, the club has decided to suspend Youcef Atal until further notice.”
This decision to suspend Atal underscores the gravity of sharing such offensive content, even if followed by an apology. It is a clear message that the club takes a strong stance against any form of discrimination or hate speech.
This incident has raised parallels with a recent case in Germany, where Bundesliga club Mainz suspended Dutch forward Anwar El Ghazi for what they deemed an “unacceptable” social media post related to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Youcef Atal’s suspension comes in the wake of the Nice public prosecutor’s office initiating a preliminary investigation. The investigation centers on Atal facing charges related to “defending terrorism” due to his sharing of the offensive message, and he is also being investigated for “public incitement to hatred or violence because of a particular religion.”
Atal, a 27-year-old who also plays for Algeria’s national team, expressed remorse after reportedly reposting and subsequently deleting a video in which a Palestinian preacher made an antisemitic statement.
French soccer federation president Philippe Diallo commented on the case, highlighting Atal’s involvement in relaying “appeals for violence.” The case will now be handed over to the federation’s ethics committee for further action.
Youcef Atal, in an Instagram post, conveyed his understanding that his post had been shocking to some people and emphasized that he condemns all forms of violence, “no matter where in the world.”
The incident serves as a reminder of the responsibility that public figures, including athletes, carry in their use of social media and the consequences of sharing offensive content. It also highlights the commitment of sports organizations to combat discrimination and hate speech in the sporting community.