A panel of the Football Association has decided not to punish a Premier League goalkeeper accused of making a Nazi salute, after deciding he was too ignorant to have deliberately made such a gesture.
Two members of the three-person panel described how a picture of Wayne Hennessey, goalkeeper for Crystal Palace and Wales, must have been “misinterpreted” because he had displayed “a very considerable - one might even say lamentable - degree of ignorance about anything to do with Hitler, Fascism and the Nazi regime”.
Mr Hennessey claimedthat he did not know what a Nazi salute was, and two members of the panel accepted this, saying: "Improbable as that may seem to those of us of an older generation, we do not reject that assertion as untrue."
The third panel member of the panel disagreed, saying the "only plausible explanation" was that Hennessey made the salute.
In January, the Crystal Palace football team was photographed during a team dinner celebrating their victory in the third round of the FA cup.
At the back of the picture, the goalkeeper can be seen with his right hand outstretched and his hand underneath his nose, in what many construed as an attempt to mimic a Hitler moustache.
Mr Hennessey denied having intentionally made the salute, saying he had "waved and shouted at the person taking the picture to get on with it" and "put my hand over my mouth to make the sound carry".
The panel was shown other pictures from the evening in which the goalkeeper’s arm was said to have been raised “in slightly different but comparable postures.”
In its ruling, the panel said the goalkeeper was “a good person with no tendency to discriminate or to do or say offensive and inappropriate things.
"Regrettable though it may be that anyone should be unaware of so important a part of our own and world history, we do not feel we should therefore find he was not telling the truth about this.”
Members of the public responded with incredulity to the FA's decision.
One person pointed out that the day after the picture emerged, Mr Hennessey gave an explanation that suggested he appreciated how offensive the gesture was.
Wayne Hennessey knew exactly what a nazi salute was when using a completely different story to explain that photo the morning after. pic.twitter.com/cucqsHixJX— Tony Greenall (@TonyGreenall4) April 16, 2019
Kick It Out, the campaign to remove racism from football, said: “If Wayne Hennessey doesn’t know what a Nazi salute is, or understand its horrifying wider implications, then it’s vital that he receives appropriate education as a consequence.”