A New York Knicks basketball player has more to worry about this week than his team’s current opponent in the NBA playoffs.
The American Jewish Congress is calling on Florida’s secretary of state, Katherine Harris, to bench point guard Charlie Ward as the official spokesman for a state reading program after Ward was quoted as saying that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
Ward’s “comments are hurtful and he needs to be responsible for them. The state needs to be responsible by not associating with him,” said Jack Karako, executive director of the AJCongress’ Southeast region.
If Ward is allowed to continue in his role for the “Born to Read” program, it would be “as if the state is endorsing his comments,” Karako added.
Harris, who made headlines during last fall’s Florida vote recount battle between Al Gore and George W. Bush, has yet to respond to the call.
In an article on the Knicks in the April 22 edition of The New York Times Magazine, Ward also was quoted as saying that Jews are persecuting Christians “every day.”
Ward’s comments revive the “historic myths that have been the source of anti- Semitism for centuries,” the Anti- Defamation League said in a statement.
In the article, teammate Allan Houston was quoted as defending Ward’s statement, while a third teammate suggested the Jewish writer join Jews for Jesus.
Ward later told reporters that if they want to know the context for his statements, they should read the Bible. He added that his best friend – Jesus – is Jewish.
Knicks’ fans booed Ward when he took the court Sunday. But by the end of Sunday’s playoff game against the Toronto Raptors, they cheered Ward, who helped the Knicks win.
Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has invited the entire Knicks team to visit the Nazi-hunting group’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The center is awaiting a response.