Menu JTA Search

Anti-semitism Finds Its Way to Italian Basketball Courts

An Italian Jewish basketball player last week was at the center of an anti- Semitic episode that shocked Italians and prompted an outpouring of support and solidarity for the athlete.

Piero Coen, 32, who plays for the professional basketball club SICC Basket in the town of Jesi, found anti-Semitic leaflets in the locker room before a match in the Adriatic resort town of Pesaro against the local team, Comeca Montecchio.

One leaflet read, “Don’t forget your son’s in the oven or he’ll burn.” Others read, “Dirty Jew,” Coen has a 4-year-old child.

Coen said he had to use earplugs during the match to block out the anti Semitic chants and taunts of a group of Comeca Montecchio supporters.

The Italian basketball federation, terming the affair deplorable, said it had opened an investigation. “We are all at fault,” federation officials said. “Adversary does not mean enemy.”

Late last week, in a show of support for Coen, about 200 Roman Jews went an en masse to Jesi in a hired coach and in a caravan of private cars.

The demonstration, which included the Jews’ presence at a rematch in Jesi, was organized by an informal Roman Jewish group that has taken responsibility for defending Italian Jews from anti-Semitism.

Of the show of support at the rematch, Vittorio Pavoncello, one of the organizer of the action, said it was “an act of solidarity for Piero Coen, who, among other things, is a member of the Italian Maccabi basketball team.”

At least one national newspaper described the action Saturday night as a “blitz” and reported violent incidents between the Jews and some onlookers in the stands.

Pavoncello denied that clashes broke out between the Jews and people in the stands, thought he said one or two punches were thrown.

Local people also demonstrated solidarity.

The Jesi team gave out T-shirts they had printed showing a Star of David that read, “Jesi is with you. Thanks, piero.”

NEXT STORY