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Kings Israeli forward says billboard swastika ‘hurtful’

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(JTA) — The painting of a swastika on a billboard featuring Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi is "hurtful," the Israeli player said.

Casspi, reached Sept. 9 at his home in Israel, told the Sacramento Bee that he was familiar with the incident, which is being investigated as a hate crime by local police. "Everybody’s talking about it. It’s hurtful to think that this is 2010, and there are still people like that out there," he told the newspaper.

A backward swastika was painted on the forehead of Casspi’s photo on the billboard. The incident was reported at around noon on Sept. 8.

"I almost don’t know what to say," Casspi said. "It’s probably just some idiot who wants some publicity. But I know the people in Sacramento, and they have been wonderful to me. I know they must feel bad about this. Same thing with the Kings. I’ll just let the police handle this and focus on having a great season."

"This act of hate and intolerance is despicable and cowardly," said California State 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 is due to return to Sacramento this week to begin preparing for training camp, according to the Bee. He had been in Israel participating in a basketball camp bringing together Israeli and Palestinian youth.

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