German journalist Tobias Huch accused Mesut Özil of supporting fascism over a tattoo that the retired Turkish-German football player has on his chest.
Özil “proudly shows off his Nazi fascist Grey Wolves tattoo”, Huch said. “It is one of the worst hate symbols and stands for hatred and crimes against Alevis, Kurds, Jews and Christians.”
The former German national team player’s tattoo, seen in an Instagram post by his personal trainer, depicts a grey wolf and three crescent moons, symbols of a far-right organisation affiliated with Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
“Özil was a victim of racism himself, now he wears a tattoo of the extreme right-wing,” German sports commentator Christian Spiller said. “This is the next sad step in his radicalisation.”
The footballer was born in Germany to Turkish immigrant parents. In 2018, he left the German team over the racism he faced. “I am German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose,” the prolific player wrote.
Özil had come under fire for posing for a photo in May 2018 with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been allied with the MHP since February the same year.
Erdoğan was also a witness at Özil’s wedding a year later, and the footballer supported Erdoğan’s re-election bid in the 2023 presidential elections.
“Özil thus gambles away the last piece of understanding afforded to him by all those who defended him at the time,” Spiller said. “The world is complex. One can be a victim [of racism] and a perpetrator at the same time.”
Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said in a 2022 brochure that the activities of the Grey Wolves were “directed against the free democratic basic order”, and that members engage in “sometimes violent confrontations with those who think differently”.
“The very notion of one’s own self-assertion and an imagined claim to power in a supposed ‘world full of enemies’ often leads to a strong affinity for violence and weapons – especially among younger members of the scene,” the BfV said.
The domestic intelligence agency also called the MHP “Turkey’s first ultranationalist party”, that has “violent” supporters among its ranks.
Austria banned symbols affiliated with the Grey Wolves in 2019, while Germany took the group under observation in 2020. The group was also banned in France the same year, over an attack against an Armenian Genocide memorial.
The US House of Representatives adopted an amendment on the Grey Wolves in 2021 to determine if the group merited a terrorist designation.