New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other members of 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 also outside a college football game in Florida on Saturday night.
A day after the NBA and Brooklyn Nets issued dissenting statements in response to Kyrie Irving’s apparent support for an anti-Semitic film, the team’s other executives and athletes are speaking out against hate and intolerance on and off the court.
At some point during the Florida-Georgia football game on Saturday night, 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 recent anti-Semitic comments Ye had 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 surfaced 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.”
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said on social media that his Northeast Florida city is “better 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, who play at TIAA’s Bank Field, said on social media that he was “personally appalled” by the rhetoric, calling it “hurtful and wrong.”
“It has to stop. I request everyone to make it their mission to end ignorance and hatred,” Khan said. “Let’s be better.”
Last year, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 2,717 incidents of harassment, vandalism or violence directed at Jews — the highest annual total since it began tracking such incidents in 1979. The recent anti-Semitic incidents come four years after the deadliest attack on American Jews, when 11 people were killed in synagogue in Pittsburgh and just days before contested midterm elections across the US
The nonprofit founded by Kraft took the next step, planning to air an ad during the Patriots-New York Jets game on Sunday that condemned anti-Jewish hate speech and encouraged non-Jews to stand up against anti-Semitism.
“Many of you have spoken out recently,” said a 30-second ad from Kraft’s Foundation to Fight Anti-Semitism. “We hear you today. We need to hear you tomorrow. There are less than 8 million Jews in this country. Fewer than are watching this ad. 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 this ad will continue to strengthen the national conversation about the need to stand up against hate of all kinds, and in particular to stand up to Jew-hatred.”
Also this week, Nets owner Joe Tsai said he was disappointed with Irving, a seven-time All-Star, who appeared to support a movie Tsai said was “based on a book full of anti-Semitic misinformation” when he posted a link to the movie Hebrews to 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 elaborate. The NBA also spoke out on Saturday, saying “hate speech of any kind is unacceptable.”
“We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring that such words or thoughts, 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.” ” said the league.
However, Irving responded in Saturday’s postgame press conference that he believes in all religions, saying he’s “not a person to divide religion.” He added that he’s “not going to build anything that I believe in.”
“Did I do something illegal? Did I hurt anybody?” Irving said. “Did I hurt anybody? Should I go out there and say I hate one particular group of people?
The Texas A&M football team changed the field Saturday night before losing to No. 15 Mississippi 31-28. After coming out to Ye’s “Power” since 2012, the Aggies instead went into Childish Gambino’s “Bonfire” instrumental. Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork criticized West’s comments earlier this week.
The fallout over Ye’s comments also includes Donda Sports, the brand management agency he founded. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Boston Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown ended their dealings with the agency, with Donald and his wife Erica denouncing Ye’s “hate speech and anti-Semitism.”
The high-ranking basketball team at Ye’s Donda Academy in California was also affected, with the Los Angeles Times reporting on Friday that they had confirmed four majors had left the school.
AP Pro football writer Mark Long, AP Pro basketball writer Brian Mahoney and AP sports writer Erica Hunzinger contributed to this report.
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