Leading NBA basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo has spoken up about a Greek television presenter who described his brother Thanasis as a “monkey” following a EuroLeague game last week.
Presenter Takis Tsoukalas, an Olympiacos fan, made the derogatory remark shortly after Thanasis helped his team, Panathinaikos, beat Olympiakos 93-80 in a EuroLeague game last Friday.
Giannis took to Twitter stating, “I have lost sleep in the last few days over the recent racist incident. If this can happen to Thanasis, who represents the Greek national team and Panathinaikos with pride and with a smile, I cannot imagine what other people of color face in Greece.”
“I am sad and disappointed but we will not let the negative comments change this family and our love for the country we grew up in.”
Giannis and Thanasis were both born in Greece, to Nigerian parents and have both played for the Greek national team.
Tsoukalas has been sued by two anti-racist organizations in Greece and has been summoned to explain his comments by the National Council for Radio and Television.
In a statement, Tsoukalas said he never mentioned Thanasis’ name “in a racist mood.”
“I characterized his behavior as an athlete who was twice punished by the referees with technical fouls,” said the presenter.
“I know very well attempts are being made to turn this incident into a racist issue and I warn them that I will follow the lawful judicial route in response to this.”
In a message to indicate his support for Antetokounmpo and his family in the wake of the racist attack, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday posted a photograph of himself on Instagram wearing an Antetokounmpo shirt in the colours of the Greek national team.
“Respect and pride for the people that were born and raised here and that made Greece their own country. No tolerance for racism and hatred,” Tsipras said in a message accompanying his post, in which he tagged all four Antetokounmpo brothers – Thanasis, Giannis, Kostas and Alexandros.