The image of a 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound African-American football player doesn’t typically bring to mind “Great Jewish Athlete.” Andre Tippett, five-time All-Pro linebacker for the New England Patriots and National Football League Hall of Famer, is changing that. Tippet, who converted to Judaism nearly 12 years ago, was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on April 26. The ceremony was held at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack, N.Y.
Tippett was born and raised a Baptist, but he converted to Judaism in 1997 when he married Rhonda Kenney. “I wanted to keep the family as one from a religious standpoint,” Tippett said in a 1998 interview on the Web site jewishsports.com. “I thought it would be great to convert to Judaism and have a Jewish home.”
Dara Torres, the five-time Olympic swimmer who competed in the 2008 summer games at the age of 41, was another one of this year’s NJSHF inductees. Torres, who also converted to Judaism, was named to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel in 2005.
Gary Gubner, an Olympic weightlifter and track and field star, was the only other athlete in this year’s Hall of Fame class. Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association; Ed Block, NFL trainer; Linda Cohn, anchor of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” and sportswriter Dick Schaap were all inducted for their contributions to sports.
Eight Long Island University basketball players, who were slated to represent the United States in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games but boycotted the event in protest of Hitler’s treatment of Jews, were also honored at the ceremony.