After scoring his first goal against West Ham on Saturday, Anelka made a sign that looked like the 'quenelle', a gesture that was popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala and has gained popularity in France in recent years. Since Dieudonne started using it in his skits, it's become a fad to make the sign in front of landmarks associated with Judaism or Jewish people.
Donc la celebration quenelle d'anelka pic.twitter.com/lzhTSmMMIY— Philippe (@saintmtex) December 28, 2013
It's certainly possible that Anelka was not doing the quenelle, but something entirely different that could be misinterpreted. It's also very possible that Anelka has a view on the sign that is different from those who believe it has anti-Semitic connotations or use it to demean Jewish people. A growing number of people have apparently repurposed the gesture, using it as a symbol of resistance against the government or other powerful entities which they view to be detrimental to society.
The quenelle has become popular enough in France that it's extremely likely that the gesture has other meanings to certain subsets of people that are neither racist, nor rebellious in nature. Its ubiquity also lends itself to people using the gesture without being aware of the manner in which it was created or spread.
Regardless of his intentions, Anelka will almost certainly be called upon to offer an explanation. If he understood that his gesture could be seen as anti-Semitic or political in nature, he's very likely to face a suspension hearing. Even if he was unaware of the anti-Semitic implications and was innocently parroting the symbol without knowing its meaning, there's a good chance that he faces a suspension hearing anyway. Even if he isn't given a ban, this incident should serve as a warning to Premier League footballers to keep the sign out of the game in the future.
Update: Anelka certainly isn't pleading ignorance.
This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné— nicolas anelka (@anelkaofficiel) December 28, 2013