When it comes to fighting racism, Israeli soccer fans can look to Lebron James
When Jerusalem teens' Twitter feed shows photos of Beitar Jerusalem players holding a mop and pail, the club will be able to say it 'firmly condemns violence.'
Florida has been the center of no small amount of bad publicity in the past month after Trayvon Martin, a black teenager wearing a hooded sweat shirt, was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer in a town called Sanford. George Zimmerman claims he fired in self-defense following an altercation.
No arrest has been made in what many have called a racially-motivated shooting. There has been public outcry and vast publicity. U.S. President Barack Obama told a press conference "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin."
Last week, hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans celebrating the team's victory over Bnei Yehuda, ran rampage in the capital's Malha Mall, allegedly beating up on Arab janitors working at the mall. One staffer from the cleaning company called it "a mass lynching attempt".
But the Miami Heat players stepped up to the plate. James and Wade got their teammates together for a photo shoot, wearing hoodies. And James posted it to his Twitter account.
This was not expensive, this did not involve huge budgets, this was no major league operation. The two-time All-Star MVP took a moment to tell their fans, to tell teens who look up to him, that he stands against racism. Not just ignores, stands against. He did it with a photo and Twitter.
Last week wasn't the first time Beitar Jerusalem or its fans, particularly a core group known as La Famiglia, have been accused of racism. The team has somehow managed in 76 years to never sign an Arab. Fans have been known to chant "Death to Arabs" to rival players.
In response to the riot at Malha last week, the soccer club released the following statement: "The incident at the mall has nothing to do with Beitar Jerusalem…"
Team captain Amit Ben Shushan missed an opportunity to show leadership and be worthy role models.
When Jerusalem teens' Twitter feed shows photos of the team captain holding a mop and pail, the club will be able to say it "firmly condemns violence and leaves it to the handling of the authorities." Until then, yes, when Beitar Jerusalem fans go on a rampage or chant racist slurs in what they perceive to be support of their Arab-free team, it has everything to do with Beitar Jerusalem.
Natasha Dornberg is an occasional sports fan and editor at Haaretz English Edition.