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Sports teams condemn recent anti-Semitic incidents, comments

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others in the sports world are condemning recent incidents of hate speech against Jews — not just the anti-Semitic comments made by the music mogul formerly known as Kanye West, but outside a college football game in Florida on Saturday night.

A day after the NBA and Brooklyn Nets issued disapproving statements in response to Kyrie Irving’s apparent endorsement of an anti-Semitic movie, other team executives and athletes are speaking out against hate and intolerance on and off the court.

At one point during Saturday night’s Florida-Georgia football game, the phrase “Kanye is right about the Jews” was projected on the outside of one of the end zones at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. It was a reference to E’s recent anti-Semitic comments made on social media and in interviews — comments that led to him losing his partnership with Adidas and several other companies.

The University of Florida and the University of Georgia issued a joint statement Sunday morning condemning the hate speech at the stadium and “other anti-Semitic messages that have appeared in Jacksonville.” The schools also said they “jointly condemn these and all acts of anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and intolerance. We are proud to be home to strong and thriving Jewish communities at UGA and UF, and together we stand against hate.”

Mayor of Jacksonville Lenny Curry announced this on social networks his Northeast Florida city “has improved because of its diversity. Those who spread messages of hatred, racism and anti-Semitism will not be able to change the heart of this city or its people. I condemn these cowards and their cowardly messages.”

And Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, which plays at TIAA Bank Field, said on social media that he was “personally confused” by the rhetoric, calling it “offensive and wrong.”

“This must be stopped. I request everyone to make it their mission to end ignorance and hatred,” Khan said. “Let’s do better.”

Last year, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 2,717 cases of harassment, vandalism or violence against Jews, the highest annual total since it began tracking the incidents in 1979. The recent anti-Semitic incidents come four years after the deadliest attack on American Jews, when 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and just days before a disputed US midterm election.

The Kraft-founded nonprofit went the extra mile by planning to air an ad during Sunday’s Patriots-New York Jets game that condemned anti-Jewish hatred and called on non-Jews to speak out against anti-Semitism.

“Many of you have spoken out recently,” read a 30-second ad for the Kraft Foundation to Fight Anti-Semitism. “We hear you today. We should hear from you tomorrow. There are less than 8 million Jews in this country. This ad is viewed less. They need you to add your voice.”

The ad, which was scheduled to air during the first quarter of the game, ends with the hashtag: #StandUptoJewishHate.

“I have committed tremendous resources to this effort, and I promise to do more,” Kraft said in a statement. “I encourage others to join this effort. I hope that this commercial will continue to strengthen the national debate about the need to stand up against all types of hate, and in particular against anti-Semitism.”

Also this week, Nets owner Joe Tsai said he was disappointed with Irving, a the seven-time All-Star who seemed supportive Tsai said the film was “based on a book full of anti-Semitic misinformation” when he tweeted a link to the film “Jews Are Negroes: Wake Up Black America” ​​on Twitter on Thursday.

Nets coach Steve Nash said the organization has “talked to Kyrie about it,” but did not provide specifics. The NBA also spoke out on Saturday, saying that “hate in any form is unacceptable.”

“We believe that we all have a role to play in ensuring that such words or ideas, including anti-Semitic ones, are challenged and refuted, and we will continue to work with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions,” the league said.

Irving, however, responded in a postgame press conference Saturday, claiming he believes in all religions and saying he’s “not divisive when it comes to religion.” He added that he would not “give up what I believe in.”

“Did I do something illegal? Did I offend anyone?’ Irving said. “Did I hurt anyone? Am I going to come out and say that I hate one particular group of people?”

The Texas A&M football team changed the way it took the field Saturday night before a 31-28 loss to No. 15 Mississippi. After performing with Ye’s “Power” in 2012, Eggy instead went into the instrumental Childish Gambino’s “Bonfire.” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork criticized West’s comments earlier this week.

The cases surrounding E’s comments also involve Donda Sports, the brand management agency he founded. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Aaron Donald and Boston Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown ended their relationship with the agency, and Donald and his wife, Erica, denounced the “hateful and anti-Semitic expressions” of E.

Ye’s Donda Academy High School basketball team in California was also affected, and the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that it confirmed the school had withdrawn from four major tournaments.


AP Pro Football writer Mark Long, AP Pro Basketball writer Brian Mahoney and AP Sports writer Erika Hunzinger contributed to this report.


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