Maccabi Tel Aviv suspends captain indefinitely, issues $25K fine
Maccabi Tel Aviv suspended its captain indefinitely and ordered that he make a $25,000 donation to a charitable organization for engaging in a verbal assault on a member of crosstown rival Happoel Tel Aviv on Sunday, according to a Dec. 4 report from The Times of Israel.
Guy Pnini had been taunting Jonathan Skjöldebrand, a Swedish-Israeli player, calling him a “German Nazi,” among other names during the game, as well as wishing that Skjöldebrand get brain cancer and saying that he hopes that his father dies. Courtside cameras picked up the mouthing of those statements made by Pnini and, thanks to a team of lip-readers, the incident was subsequently aired on Israeli national television, prompting a complaint from Happoel and a public outcry over the abusive comments.
Pnini then issued a statement, which can be read in its entirety on the Euroleague site, in which he apologizes to the family of Skjöldebrand:
“I want to apologize from the depths of my heart for the hard things I said during the derby. I apologize to Jonathan and his family, to my club Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team, sports fans and to anyone who was hurt by this. I feel like I have disappointed the sport of basketball, the club, the fans and all the people who I love – and especially myself. As someone who should be an example for young people and youth, and who should preserve the values I grew up with and the club’s value, I am ashamed of myself and the way I acted. I will respect any decision that the club will take, and will do anything to make up for the mistake I made.
Maccabi won in rather dominating fashion, beating Happoel 91 – 72. This isn’t the first time that these teams have been engaged in animosity towards each other. The annual matchup between them was called off in 2006 after Hapoel fans were heard chanting that Maccabi would suffer a Holocaust. Pnini also used to play for Hapoel but signed with Maccabi in 2008.