Trending Topics

If Black NBA Players Can Fly to Israel on a Republican Billionaire’s 747, Can They Support #BlackLivesMatter at Home?

Portland Trail Blazers wearing "I Can't Breathe" shirts. (Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn, Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport)

Portland Trail Blazers wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts. (Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn, Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport)

A billionaire has sent a group of NBA players to Israel on his private plane to fight the economic boycott against that country, even as Black NBA players were chastised for wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in support of #BlackLivesMatter.  Imagine if these players teamed up with Black philanthropists and entrepreneurs to support #BlackLivesMatter and other initiatives in their own community.

Sheldon Adelson–the casino magnate who is funding the right wing of the GOP as well as the Israeli right and its propaganda machine—seeks to shut down the growing global movement to boycott Israel, known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS. The purpose of BDS is to pressure Israel to end the occupation and colonization of the Palestinians, end the human rights violations in the occupied territories, and bring full citizenship rights to Israeli citizens of Arab descent.

On July 23, Adelson flew a group of NBA players to Israel on his private 747 jet to fight the BDS movement. As Politico reported, a delegation of players was led and organized by Israeli Sacramento Kings’ forward Omri Casspi, and also included Israeli NBA player Gal Mekel, Kings players DeMarcus Cousins and Caron Butler, and other NBA notables including Chandler Parsons, Tyreke Evans, Iman Shumpert and newly signed Washington Wizard Alan Anderson. NBA player Rudy Gay, who was believed to be a member of the delegation, did not attend the trip.  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver approved the trip, which involved planned events with Israeli basketball teams Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem, and philanthropic events, some of which were organized by the league-sponsored NBA Cares.

With a net worth of $28.7 billion according to Forbes, Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands, is the 18th richest person in the world, and the 13th richest in the U.S.  He is a major donor for the Republican Party– spending $100 million on Republican candidates in 2012 and 2014 according to Salon–and the Likud Party, which is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Adelson also owns Israel’s largest circulation daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, which is dedicated to promoting Netanyahu’s hardline policies, and decries President Obama’s “socialist” policies.

Writing for The Nation magazine, Dave Zirin penned an open letter to the group of NBA players, some of whom have been involved in the #BlackLivesMatter protests.  Zirin noted to the players that Adelson “is best known for financially propping up the hard right wing of the Israeli government, and calling for the dropping of an atomic bomb on Iran.”  Zirin also noted in the letter that Casspi is entitled to his politics, as when he scolded NBA player Dwight Howard last year for tweeting “Free Palestine” as Israel bombed Gaza, killing over 2,100 people, mostly civilians.

While saying it would be insulting to assume the NBA players did not know what they were getting into when they signed onto this trip, or the money behind it, Zirin brought to the players’ attention some things he thought they should know.

Speaking of the epidemic of police violence in America leading to the emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Zirin noted that roughly 400 people were shot and killed during the first five months of 2015, mostly people of color, as police departments have militarized themselves with the help of Israel:

This epidemic of killings has been aggravated by the influence of Israeli police practices on US policing. Since 9/11, police chiefs and high-ranking officers from across the United States—from Ferguson to New York City—have traveled to Israel for training in the arts of suppression. As Ali Winston reported, “[a]t least 300” chiefs from across the country have gone to Israel for these workshops. Former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer called Israel “the Harvard of antiterrorism” after one all-expenses-paid trip. The NYPD, which took the life of Eric Garner and broke the leg of NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, now has an office in Tel Aviv.

Zirin wrote that since 9/11, Israel has turned its repressive policing into “an exportable commodity,” with tactics such as surveillance, psychological operations and crowd control, which have led thousands of Ethiopian Jews to protest Israeli police brutality under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter, to which they were met with tear gas.  The writer also connected the dots between the #BlackLivesMatter movement and those fighting for Palestinian rights, and the military and police repression in Israel and America that joined the two.  Angela Davis and other Black activists have signed a statement in solidarity with Palestinians, and a delegation of racial justice groups traveled to Palestine. A delegation of Palestinian students also visited Black organizers in cities across the U.S.

“Omri Casspi is by all accounts a great teammate and friend. But his country’s policing practices are going global and jeopardizing the safety of communities that you have pledged to defend,” Zirin added. “Here is hoping you read this and here is hoping you return home clear that everything you stand for, everything that compelled you to wear that shirt on December 12 for Eric Garner, puts you on the other side of the barricades of Sheldon Adelson.”

While Zirin makes a strong case as to why these Black players should not have flown to Israel on Sheldon Adelson’s 747 to do his and Casspi’s bidding, there is a larger issue begging for discussion.  While Omri Casspi used his network, including Adelson, to fight the BDS movement and make the trip to Israel a success–all with the blessings of the NBA top brass–the Black players who dared to wear “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts were chastised by fans and sportscasters.

Just to take it a step further, imagine what these players and other Black businesspeople could accomplish if they had greater allegiance to the Black Lives Matter movement, and put their money where their mouth is.

Black NBA players with multimillion dollar contracts who are scolded for speaking out on injustice, yet are given permission slips to fly to another country to serve someone else’s racist political agenda, are not free men.  They are high-priced slaves.  With over $1 trillion in buying power, Black America has far more power and potential than it realizes. If only these NBA stars, and by extension Black people in general, would open their eyes and connect the dots.

What people are saying

10 thoughts on “If Black NBA Players Can Fly to Israel on a Republican Billionaire’s 747, Can They Support #BlackLivesMatter at Home?

  1. Adam Gantz says:

    So much wrong with this piece, I just don't know where to start. The complaint about I can't breathe t'shirts was about the players wearing them during warmups before NBA games. You're comparing that to banning offseason vacation travel? Did the NBA ban black players travelling to Africa, and I missed it? Second, are you SERIOUSLY blaming the Jewish community just because no black billionaire has bankrolled a Black Lives Matter trip for the black community? Talk about "hating the player instead of the game"! Reading your piece, apparently, it is the Jews' fault that Michael Jordan and Jay Z don't do more for the black community. Third, you act like "anti-terror training" really means bloodthirsty Israeli soldiers teaching angry white cops to use extreme violence to control a minority population, just like they do in Israel. What a load of paranoid and delusional propaganda! Shame on you! Black people died in 9/11. Black people run the Boston Marathon. Don't you want police to be trained to protect you when a bomb goes off? Or would you refuse help from a white police officer using training gleaned for an Israeli soldier?

  2. The reason why these players are visiting Israel is to see how those that say Israel is "racist" are liars. These African American players do what they want. If they don't want to visit Israel, they could very easily decline the offer to visit.

    Palestinians in Israel vote in elections and serve in Israel's court system, police and army. It is the only country in the Middle East where people from any religion can advance to the top positions in society.

  3. Dave Mills says:

    High priced Slaves indeed. I really don't see the point in earning huge amounts on contract with a major team, but still being in a position where you're told, what to do, and tacitly being told what will happen if you don't. The old Hollywood Shuffle film springs to mind. " There's always a job a the post office" than sell your people down the river for a few pieces of silver.

  4. Avis Writes says:

    If they "teamed up with black philanthropists"? How about if they step up and become philanthropists? Shallow.

  5. Another angle is why dont Arabs with all their money outbid the Israelis for these NBA Players?

  6. Wes Peskin says:

    The only racist propaganda is this article. One sided and portraying facts that do not reflect a balanced truth in reporting. Right wing or left, the media today is no different than the people it criticizes.

  7. Tim Fromla says:

    Funny thing, the right wingers in Israel don't like Jews from: Iran, Palestine and Ethiopia. It ain't Jews vs. Muslims, it's white folks against PoC in Israel. If Hitler was around, Bibi would send these Jews to the gas chambers

    #WhitePrivilege #WhiteSupremacy

  8. Viola Hood Nice scam.

  9. Good that it's an election issue. Those that are anti-war will know clearly who voted for war and we can route hem out.

    A 'No' vote on Iran's NPT is a vote for another Iraqi/Afghanistan war. 'Yes' gives us a chance to see if peace will work, there is still lots of time for war. Benny is not going to be too successful is selling another Bush WMD's story. We've had enough liars misleading us. This has nothing to do with Israel's security, this has to do with suppressing a geopolitical competitor. The US is not a puppet of Israel.

    A VOTE FOR NO IS A VOTE FOR ANOTHER IRAQI / AFGHANISTAN STYLE WAR. Do we want that? Can we afford that?

    The question is really that simple. Forget all those people trying to tell you what your opinion should be, the celebs bought and paid for, the massive media propaganda, the warmongering without fact or foundation. They want to turn this in Pro verses Anti Israel argument. They don't want to tell facts, just leak bits and pieces of misinformation. There is no such thing as a perfect deal in negotiation that is a fantasy, the deal is excellent and quite an accomplishment.

    And in case you don't get it a non proliferation agreement is NO NUKES, NO NUKES, NOT ONE FRIGGING NUKE PERIOD FOREVER. In case some are asleep Iran already has an existing stockpile to manufacture a dozen bombs. All of which they are giving up. If they wanted Nukes they would already have them. Not every government lies, spies, assassinates and does dirty tricks like Israel and their horrible leadership. With success, there will be futile ground to progress on other issues. Unfortunately Israel only knows how to use a club to negotiate peace. There leadership has to go as it represents the single most dangerous threat to Israeli security.

    Remember who voted 'No' so we can remove the warmongering puppets of Israel next election. Any presidential hopeful who votes 'No' will be a marked man. There will be no blaming on the intelligence services. They are either in the Israeli lobbyist pockets, or have confusion as to which government they serve, or lack the intelligence to understand the deal, (stupid). Not presidential or congressional material. There will be a backlash for this betrayal of the US public interest.

    Hezbollah could disappear over night if Benny was doing his job instead of trying to club everyone into submission. Without a club Benny is clueless. Iranians are all smiles these days. Israel is doing far more damage to it's interests then Iran could ever do. I expect they will be a model treaty participant just to rub salt in Israel's self inflicted wounds and they haven't spent a penny to do it. Iran wants to improve life for their people, help Iraq fight ISIS and protect the religious sites. This is their priority, Isreal inflates it's importance to Iran. They are laughing at Benny, soon they will be laughing at the Republicans, revealed for who they are.

Leave a Reply

Back to top