The leader of the ‘Golden Dawn’ party Nikos Michaloliakos likened Antetokounmpo to a ‘chimpanzee’ during a television programme. The comments were then promptly condemned by the country’s Prime Minister and a number of sporting bodies, such as the Greek Basketball Federation who called the remarks as “unacceptable and racist”.
Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras criticised the comments and said,
“Giannis fought to become Greek. He went to school, he learnt to speak Greek better than many people and he was baptized as an Orthodox Cristian. He started from the playgrounds of Athens and worked hard to get himself in the NBA. He is one of us. He makes us all proud. He is more Greek than people that abuse him because of the colour of his skin and then burn our flag. Those people disgrace our country.”
Only a few days before the comments were made, Antetokounmpo, who is of Nigerian descent, had been praised by the country’s Prime Minister for his draft pick by the American team Milwaukee Bucks to play in the NBA in America during a meeting between the pair at the Minister’s official residency.
“We are proud to see you in the NBA and we have to thank you for raising the Greek flag during the draft. We all hope that you will make them go crazy with your dunks.”.
The incident created shockwaves throughout the country’s sporting community who united in support of the young basketball player.
“Giannis is Greek. He has nothing to prove to anyone. He is a product of Greek basketball and it was moving to see him celebrating and waving the Greek flag in the US, an image that was shown around the world.” said the Greek professional basketball player Manolis Papamakarios.
“I think every intelligent and responsible man condemns this type of derogatory action which goes against human dignity. Such attitudes go against modern Greece.” expressed the former player and professional football coach Giannis Christopoulos.