Milwaukee Bucks star and MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo comes from a tight-knit basketball family, and his older brother, Thanasis, plays in Greece for the team Panathinaikos B.C.
After a game against one of the team’s rivals, Olympiakos, last week, Greek TV commentator Takis Tsoukalas referred to the elder Antetokounmpo as a “monkey”, prompting outrage against the controversial TV personality and an emotional response from Giannis himself.
The NBA star posted his response to Twitter as a screenshot from the “Notes” app on his iPhone, and the message is written in Greek–a show of solidarity with his brother and the country they grew up in.
“First Thanasi I want to apologize to you because I know what I’m going to say will draw a lot of looks on you and on me and I know it’s something you don’t want,” the message begins. “But I’m sure if dad was here he would be very disappointed if I’ve lost sleep in the last few days for the negative racist incident that happened recently.”
“If this can happen to Thanasis who represents the Greek national team and Panathinaikos with pride and a smile, I cannot imagine what other people of color face in Greece.
“I am extremely sad and disappointed, but we will not allow negative comments to change this family and our love for the country where we grew up. My brothers and I are proud to be Greek-Nigerian and if anyone doesn’t like it, that’s their problem,” he concluded.
Tsoukalas Defends Himself
Tsoukalas, the TV commentator in question, defended his comments soon after the blowup. In a statement, he said that 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,” he said, adding, “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.”
Tsoukalas is apparently known as an oft-inflammatory presence on Greek television, though this is likely the most attention he’s garnered worldwide because of his comments.