NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire has canceled the basketball camp he was to host in Israel for local youth later this month, citing safety concerns due to the ongoing conflict with Hamas.
“We chose to cancel the Amar’e Stoudemire Basketball Academy because we did not want to put any of our campers or coaches in harm’s way,” Stoudemire said in a statement to Haaretz. “I look forward to hosting a basketball camp in Israel in the future.”
Camp director Matan Simantov said 130 Israelis between the ages of 10 and 18 had registered for the camp, which was scheduled to take place July 27-31 in Tel Aviv. Stoudemire had planned to run the camp — his first in Israel — with the help of other American and Israeli basketball players and coaches. The registrants will receive a refund.
“I think that Amar’e has a lot of things that he wants to share with the Israeli people, and he would love to come back and do so when the timing is right,” Simantov said.
An oft-injured power forward for the New York Knicks, Stoudemire has demonstrated a strong affinity for Israel in recent years: He visited the country in 2010 to explore what he called his “Hebrew roots,” and coached the Canadian men’s basketball team at last summer’s Maccabiah Games. He is also a co-owner of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball club, and many Israeli hoops fans hope he will one day play for the team.
Although Stoudemire is sometimes identified in the press as Jewish, he has publicly stated that he does not practice a religion. On social media he has identified himself as a Hebrew, a term for African Americans who believe they are descendants of the biblical Israelites.
Earlier this month, Stoudemire stirred controversy when he posted a photo with the words “Pray for Palestine” on Instagram. Many Jewish fans objected to the photo, arguing that he should encourage prayer for Israel, too. He later deleted the photo and told an Israeli journalist, Becky Griffin, that he could not find a photo that expressed support for both sides, according to The Daily Beast.
Another NBA player, Dwight Howard, faced a similar backlash when he tweeted “#FreePalestine” last week. Howard, who plays for the Houston Rockets alongside Israeli Omri Casspi, quickly deleted the tweet and apologized.