Offensive Foul?

Published April 13, 2007, issue of April 13, 2007.
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Former NBA star Micheal Ray Richardson found himself in some hot water after news of a March 27 interview started making the rounds. Richardson, who played for the Knicks and Nets and is now a coach with the Continental Basketball Association’s Albany Patroons, was asked before a playoff game about a contract he’d been offered. Richardson, who was barred from the NBA in 1986 for drug use, said he wasn’t worried. “I’ve got big-time lawyers,” he reportedly said. “I’ve got big-time Jew lawyers.” When told that his comment could be construed as offensive, Richardson was defiant. “Are you kidding me?” he said. “They’ve got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They’re real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they’ve got to be crafty.”

The response was swift. Patroons owner Ben Fernandez suspended Richardson the next day. Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, called the remarks “inappropriate and offensive.” But not everyone was miffed. Writing on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times, journalist Zev Chafets saw compliments where others saw antisemitism. “Even if his observations were wrong — which they are not — there’s nothing at all insulting about them,” he wrote. “What is insulting is the notion that you can’t speak honestly about Jews without getting into trouble.” Writing on the sports blog No Mas, journalist Christopher Isenberg, who wrote a profile of the athlete for The Village Voice in 2000, said that Richardson, who played for a time in Israel and was once married to a Jew, is not only is a fan of the Jews but of the Jewish State, too. “You think it’s going to be an awful place,” Isenberg quoted Richardson as saying about Israel. “You just see bombs going off all the time, but it ain’t like that…. Let me tell you something. Them Jews know how to party.”

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