Omri Casspi is a national hero. The first ever Israeli-born player to suit up for an NBA game, he averaged 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Sacramento Kings in his rookie year. For at least one idiot in Sacramento, Casspi’s historic season wasn’t enough to suppress feelings of baseless resentment.
A mural in the California capital dedicated to its basketball team was defaced by a Swastika, the Sacramento Bee reports, and it was drawn right in between the eyes of Omri Casspi. The vandal committed the act on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. From the Sac Bee:
“This act of hate and intolerance is despicable and cowardly,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in a written statement. “It is all the more offensive because it occurred on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish new year. As residents of Sacramento, we are fortunate to live in a community that respects and draws strength from our individual differences. But we also are united in condemning the cowardly acts of those who wish to sow fear, hatred, and anger toward others based on their religious beliefs.”
Casspi’s in Israel to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with family and friends but even thousands of miles away, Omri felt the shockwaves from Sacto. This is undoubtedly a black mark for a city that received him well. He responded to the acts on AOL Fanhouse:
“It’s all over the news here,” Casspi said. “I’m not shocked but I’m kind of hurt, you know. … It’s just crazy that it’s 2010 and still there are people who are racist and who hate. That’s the only thing that hurts and is a big shock. In Israel, obviously there’s not something like that. I’ve been in Sacramento and all over the NBA and never had anything close to that, never had anything racist happen. Everybody has treated me warm and kind and been unbelievably great to me. It’s the first time for me to handle that kind of situation and I’m sorry I have to handle it at all.”
The best news in there is also what makes this incident so disgusting: he’s never had to experience anything close to this in either Israel or Sacramento. For a culture that digests news in 140 characters or less, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for someone outside of the USA to let this marker scribbling define Omri’s career thus far. The same way some loser Pastor in Florida can give his religion and my country a shameful name by burning Qu’rans, it only takes one senseless act to put a city or a country underneath a cloud of suspicion and it’s not fair to the thousands of people who’ve been good to Omri both in Israel in the NBA. Stupid people like Terry Jones and the Sharpie-wielder should keep to themselves. They’re the type who are going to get us all killed one day, and I’d really like to watch Omri ball for the Kings next season. So if the morons out there would do us all a favor and stow their Sharpies and lighters, that would be great.
Over in Turkey, a nation that is 98% Islamic, we’ve enjoyed an uneventful World Championship from a religious standpoint. There was the issue of the scantily clad dance teams that had to push pause in games involving the host nation, but the Red Foxes left Ankara, came to Istanbul and have re-adopted their suggestive routines. The fans don’t seem to mind. The media may care, but that’s only in hopes that it might give them 800 words for their newspaper or a nice soundbite for their radio piece. It’s mostly it’s just fodder for hotel meals or breaks between games.
Even the Group B match-up between the USA and Iran produced rumblings from people who’d rather stir things up than focus on basketball. Unfortunately, none of the 24 players on the court that night gave anyone the quote they were after and we got to enjoy 40 minutes of five versus five.
ELA loves Omri and hopes this doesn’t get in the way of what he’s promised will be a sophomore campaign to remember. We absolutely have faith that he’ll make good on that promise because he’s a driven and most importantly, smart individual. That’s more than I can say about the person who violated Omri’s forehead. All you need to know about the vandal? He drew the Swastika backwards.