US sports teams issue statements of support
JTA – In an unusual show of support for Israel, a number of professional athletes and sports teams issued statements about Hamas’ invasion of the country, which left more than 1 200 dead.
“The National Basketball Association and [the NBA Players’ Association] mourn the horrific loss of life in Israel, and condemn these acts of terrorism,” the NBA posted on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. The league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, is Jewish. “We stand with the people of Israel, and pray for peace for the entire region.”
Numerous NBA teams then reposted the league’s message. The Washington Wizards, the team of the NBA’s lone Israeli player, Deni Avdija, posted that it “stands with the people of Israel”. Avdija himself posted a lengthy statement on Instagram, writing that he knew some of the victims and that “while I’m here playing ball, my thoughts are constantly pulled back to Israel”.
NBA star Kyle Kuzma, Avdija’s teammate on the Wizards, posted, “Israel ❤️🙏 just terrible stuff happening right now, and my prayers with them!”
The Major League Baseball (MLB) posted a statement on Monday, 9 October, on X that the league was “horrified by the acts of terrorism committed against the people of Israel” and is “heartbroken for the people of Israel”.
Baltimore Orioles’ Israeli pitcher, Dean Kremer, who was born in California to Israeli parents and has played for Team Israel in international tournaments, shared the MLB’s message on Instagram with a Hebrew note saying, “There are no words. My heart just got ripped to shreds.”
Many of Kremer’s teammates from Team Israel also reshared the MLB’s post, including rookies Matt Mervis and Zack Gelof and Orthodox prospect Jacob Steinmetz. Boston Red Sox pitcher Zack Weiss, another Team Israel alum, posted an Instagram story about the conflict, and Team Israel coach and former big leaguer, Kevin Youkilis, posted a photo of himself in his Team Israel jersey with the caption, “I stand with Israel 🇮🇱🙏.”
Similar messages of support have poured in from across the sports world over the past three days, including from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is Jewish and a long-time supporter of Israel.
Other teams that shared posts of support for Israel include the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils; Miami’s MLB and NBA teams; the New York Jets; Cincinnati Reds; and Philadelphia 76ers, among others. Cincinnati Reds assistant pitching coach Alon Leichman, who is Israeli, also posted a message of support.
Detroit Lions player Alex Anzalone shared that his parents were in Jerusalem, pleading with the American government to help them evacuate safely. “It’s hard,” Anzalone told the Detroit News. “(It’s) really all I’ve been thinking about.”
Anzalone’s parents are reportedly part of a group of 53 Americans who arrived in Israel on 2 October as part of a tour group through their church in Naples, Florida. Representative Byron Donalds, who represents the area in Congress, posted about the group on X, to which Anzalone replied, “My parents are in this group. Please get my parents home @POTUS,” tagging United States President Joe Biden’s official account.
Amar’e Stoudemire, the former NBA star who converted to Judaism and played professionally in Israel, shared a video on Instagram calling for a ceasefire, saying that he “pray[s] for the safety of Palestinian children along with the Israeli children”. Former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Julian Edelman wrote on X that he was “heartbroken”.
Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla spoke about the war during his pre-game press conference on Sunday, saying, “there should be a lot of thoughts and prayers” for Israelis.
“I went this past year, and I went in 2016,” Mazzulla said. “It doesn’t matter what you are, whether you’re Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Israeli or Palestinian. They’re people, and they go through a lot of dangerous situations. Our country is 400 years old, and they’ve been suffering for 10 000 years. You start to see the perspective of the world, and it’s a really tough area to be. We should all be aware of that.”
In Israel, the conflict has already begun to affect planned sports events. The Israeli national soccer team’s upcoming Euro 2024 qualifying match against Switzerland, which was scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed. Matches for Israel’s under-17 and under-21 soccer teams were also postponed.
“In light of the current security situation in Israel, UEFA has decided to postpone all matches scheduled in Israel in the next couple of weeks with new dates to be confirmed in due course,” the Union of European Football Associations announced on Sunday.
Israel’s top basketball and soccer leagues have also postponed games. The Maccabi Ra’anana basketball team is scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Nets in New York on Thursday as the team celebrates a previously scheduled Israeli Heritage Night. (The Jewish Sport Report, JTA’s sports newsletter, and the New York Jewish Week are co-sponsoring the event.)
The Hapoel Tel Aviv Football Club shared on social media that former player Lior Assulin and youth coach Alon Shamli were both killed during the attacks.