Milwaukee Bucks first-round draft pick Giannis Antetokounmpo speaks at a news conference June 28, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s basketball federation condemned remarks by the leader of an extreme right Greek political party who likened a recent NBA draft pick to a “chimpanzee.”
The federation on Thursday described the remarks aimed at Giannis Antetokounmpo as “unacceptable and racist.”
Antetokounmpo, an 18-year-old Greek shooting guard and the son of Nigerian immigrants, was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks. He was received this week in Athens by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the leader of the far-right Golden Dawn party, likened the 6-foot-9 player to a “chimpanzee” during a television interview Tuesday.
Antetokounmpo was selected 15th in the 60-player NBA draft on June 27. He was seen celebrating the news at the Barclays Center in New York, crossing himself in the Orthodox Christian fashion, waving a Greek flag and hugging family members.
Golden Dawn has seen a recent surge in support as Greece endures a sixth year of recession. The party has mounted an aggressive campaign against illegal immigration and the austerity measures imposed under the country’s bailout program.
In elections last year, the party won 18 seats in the 300-member parliament, and is currently the third-strongest in opinion polls.
Prime Minister Samaras has frequently described Golden Dawn as “neo-Nazis.” It is a label which the party rejects, though leading members of Golden Dawn have in the past openly expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and denied the Holocaust occurred.
Samaras said he felt “great emotion” at his meeting this week with Antetokounmpo and his parents.
“I thank you for honoring our national colors,” he said. “I hope you drive them crazy with your slam dunks. … All of Greece is so excited for you.”