It’s time for the sports world to fight back against antisemitism

Estimated read time 5 min read

Kanye West

Kanye West
Photo: Getty Images

Kanye West is an anti-Semite. And that’s not a controversial statement. Blurting out disgusting and derogatory things about Judaism and Jewish people is a repeated pattern for Ye, not one prejudiced comment swept under the rug by a press release talking about how wrong he was and how much learning he can do to better himself and not say similar heinous things. West’s deep hatred showed over the last few weeks in multiple public outbursts following tropes best associated with Nazi Germany. Those outlandish remarks forced Adidas’ hand, ending the brand’s partnership with the rapper, a deal that will cost the German sportswear brand around $250 million this year, a company statement read.

Kanye has said horrible things before, like calling slavery a choice and the several bizarre theories he brought into the mainstream during a 2018 Oval Office visit with then-President Donald Trump. Neither comment got West dropped from several brand deals, as it should have. Good for Adidas to finally make the right move to stop production on Yeezys, although it was a move the company had to make before being threatened by a boycott at-large. Distancing themselves from West just stops a further plummet of its bottom line with some damage already being done, like recognizing the company’s founders joined the Nazi party.

Cheering for Adidas for doing the bare minimum to make things right shouldn’t be lauded as brave. West’s comments come as anti-Semitic incidents around America are on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League, whose mission is to stop the mistreatment of Jewish people and provide equal treatment for all, found 2,717 anti-Semitic events in 2021, a 34 percent increase from 2020. That averages to more than seven such incidents per day. If Adidas had failed to cut ties with Kanye, the brand that’s so ingrained in American sports should’ve lost every brand deal with teams it has.

It’s incredibly dumb to think Kanye is alone in his view of Jewish people, and he won’t have people by his side despite every notion to the contrary being logical. On Monday, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown told The Boston Globe he’s not parting with Donda Sports, West’s marketing agency. Brown is one of two high-profile athletes to be represented by Donda, with Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald being the other.

Both players have seen cut ties with Donda.

Brown told the Globe he doesn’t condone hate speech and West needs help and “unconditional love.” That should be a two-way street though. West spews hate, and gets love back. Make that make sense. Silence is also complicity in a situation like this. The lack of activism from the sports world when it comes to anti-Semitism is appalling. There are old jokes and tropes about Jews owning sports teams but not being athletic enough to actually play professional sports. Yes, there are American sports owners that are Jewish, like Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and the Miami Heat’s Micky Arison. Yet, there have been plenty of Jewish athletes to have had recent success. There might not be a more high-profile athlete to project his Jewish faith than Julian Edelman, who spoke out after the Pittsburgh mass shooting at a synagogue in 2018 and posted a statement Tuesday about mental health with a Star of David emoji.

 It’s not my job to speculate as to what brought Ye to his anti-Semitic conclusions or what else is going on in his life where he feels the need to act so despicably. I believe the biggest part of West’s religion-bashing tirade, especially in the sports world, is what happens now. Would there be protests at every Celtics and Rams game until Brown and Donald disassociated themselves from Donda? What about any show of support from all Los Angeles-area teams, after a group hung a banner over Interstate 405 that read: “Kanye is right about the Jews” with another asking passing cars to honk their horns if they agree, all while giving Nazi salutes.

Something as simple as a patch on jerseys and selling t-shirts supporting the Jewish community would do. Sports have been interwoven with social issues for much longer than Colin Kapernick using his platform to shine a light on racial injustice. However, how individual athletes, teams, and leagues organized after Trump said “Get that son of a bitch off the field” and in protest of George Floyd’s murder is a great example of how those with powerful platforms should come together to combat anti-Semitism. Acknowledging other people’s accomplishments doesn’t diminish your own. Acknowledging others’ oppression also doesn’t negate any other struggles.

How powerful would it be when the World Series kicks off on Friday to see Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman, who is Jewish, wearing a yarmulke under his hat while in the field or at the plate? Or even better, Bregman leading some sort of pregame ceremony with the country watching speaking out against anti-Semitism. The statement shouldn’t mention West, but a name-drop of Jewish baseball legends Sandy Koufax and Harmon Killebrew would be a great touch. That little gesture would be a great step in recognizing the bigotry Jews have faced for a long time. And with Ye’s anti-Semitic comments disseminating onto every major media outlet in the country, now is the time to speak up and make a difference.

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