Recent broadcasts of NFL and MLB games have shown the complicity of major league sports in sanitizing Israel’s war crimes and human rights violations. With the indifference toward Palestinian life being pumped throughout the media sphere and NFL owners generally being to the right of Jim Jordan, it is not surprising that they would fall in line and call for vengeance after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks in Israel. The media, the right-wing hoards, and the liberal left have found common cause in wanting the people of Gaza to die in numbers that will prove to be a deterrent to future Hamas attacks, as if killing civilians won’t just produce a more violent response. But this is what they want. Yet there are voices saying no. Jews are getting arrested in multiple cities throughout the United States calling for a ceasefire. In this “Choice Words” segment, Edge of Sports host Dave Zirin speaks out against the systematic “sportswashing” of Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza.
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Dave Zirin: Welcome to Edge of Sports TV, only on The Real News Network. I’m Dave Zirin and I have some choice words about the NFL in Palestine.
Okay, look, the NFL took its operation to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London where the Baltimore Ravens were playing against the Tennessee Titans. Before the opening kickoff, the stadium announcer instructed fans to obey a moment of silence for the Israelis killed by Hamas and pray for the safety of “innocent civilians” throughout the Middle East. At which point a small but loud cohort of fans started a chant, and that chant was free Palestine. As the volume intensified, the moment of silence ended up being conspicuously shorter than the ones programmed for later that day in the States, although the NFL has denied pulling the plug early. The Daily Mail, which is a British rag, immediately posted that this act of chanting amid the League’s corporate controlled political messaging “marred” the moment.
But it marred nothing. I’m not sure there was much demand to hear what Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL think about the horrific events in Israel and Palestine. And yet, the League, with its pompous belief that it matters far more than it does, decided to weigh in. First, they issued a statement, writing that it mourns the loss of innocent lives in Israel and strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. And you know, Hamas is surely reeling at the thoughts of disapproval from Jerry Jones. Then, starting Thursday night and continuing through Monday, the League held more pre-game moments of silence throughout that weekend.
But the NFL actually looks like Desmond Tutu compared to Major League Baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies, before a playoff game, lit up the stadium in powder blue and white while displaying the Israeli flag on the jumbotron.
Look, of course, all the dead deserve to be mourned. That should be obvious. But it’s not obvious to the sports leagues. The NFL and Major League Baseball teams, when they were doing these announcements at stadiums, there was this absence of words like “Palestinian” or “Gaza” that preceded these moments of silence. It was striking. Even Tom Brady, in his post on the Middle East, mentioned the people of Gaza in addition to Israelis and mourned the loss of their lives too.
And by the way, a quick timeout. While welcome, was anybody asking for Tom Brady’s thoughts on this either? We are such a weird country. Does Boomer Esiason have a hot take on Azerbaijan? Okay, look, I’m not arguing that Goodell is sitting around thinking I’m going to be a part of a project to exploit Israeli and Jewish pain in order to help justify the shelling of Palestinian civilians. I can’t even confirm that Goodell could find Gaza on a map. But I do believe that the NFL is picking up on the all-too respectable sense that Palestinian life is just worth less.
It’s not just the anti-Palestinian exterminations on the hate platform formerly known as Twitter. It’s not just the Pulitzer Prize winners deciding that now is the moment to bare their teeth and justify the current slaughter like it’s Sept. 12, 2001. It’s a New York Times editorial board that gallingly led with a column titled “Israel is Fighting to Defend a Society that Values Human Life.” Innocents are being massacred from the sky. Gaza’s hospitals are bursting at the seams. UN facilities for hundreds of thousands of displaced people are saying they lack water. And we are told this constitutes valuing human life. As Lenny Bruce said, It’s a shanda, man.
With the indifference toward Palestinian life being pumped throughout the media sphere and NFL owners generally being to the right of Jim Jordan, it is not surprising that they would fall in line and call for vengeance. Yet those voices in London are what should be remembered. The media, the right-wing hordes, and the liberal left have found common cause in wanting the people of Gaza to die in numbers that will prove to be a deterrent to future Hamas attacks, as if killing civilians won’t just produce a more violent response. But this is what they want. Yet there are voices saying no.
Jews are getting arrested in multiple cities throughout the United States calling for a ceasefire. Thousands just marched in DC in the rain. I was there. It was diverse, vibrant, angry, full of families. And based upon signs, it included a significant Jewish presence as well. There was no celebrating Israeli civilian death. There was no cheerleading Hamas, but there was fear and fury over the people of Gaza being killed and expelled from their homes. Another Nakba taking place right in front of their eyes. It may have just been London, but the NFL had to at least hear that while they might play the tune, others are refusing to dance.
For Edge of Sports TV and The Real News Network, I’m Dave Zirin.
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