JERUSALEM (JTA) – A son of former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire has been barred from playing youth basketball in Israel because he is not an Israeli citizen.
Stoudemire’s wife, Alexis Stoudemire, posted a photo of their 12-year-old son, Deuce, on Instagram last week, complaining that he was being forced to sit out games for his Jerusalem basketball team. Although she did not say so, Deuce practices with a youth team of Hapoel Jerusalem, the organization his dad plays professional basketball for.
On Sunday afternoon here, the Instagram post had been liked 243 times and received more than a dozen sympathetic comments.
“The last few months have been practices, jersey handouts (which was delayed) and a few games (which he bravely sat on the bench). This is appalling as a mother whom supports extracurricular activities and played youth sports,” Alexis Stoudemire wrote.
Amar’e Stoudemire, who claims “Hebrew roots,” made a surprise announcement in August that he was leaving the NBA, where he was a six-time All-Star in 14 seasons, to play for Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. He and his wife live in Jerusalem with their four children.
A spokesman for the Israel Basketball Association, which oversees all but the top men’s league in the country, confirmed to JTA that Deuce had been barred from playing for Hapoel Jerusalem because of the association’s policy requiring that all youth league players have Israeli citizenship. Hagay Segal said the policy was common around the world.
“You can’t play as a foreign player in a youth league in any country. It’s the same here,” he said, though he could offer no explanation for the policy.
He said the association had suggested that Hapoel Jerusalem issue a formal request for the league to make an exception in Deuce’s case, which he said would be reviewed “positively.” Only teams, not individuals, can make such a request, he said. Hapoel Jerusalem did not respond to requests for comment.
“Since we know Amar’e and we know Hapoel Jerusalem, we asked the team to make a special request to the federation, and after they will do it, the basketball authorities will discuss it positively to find a solution.”
Alexis Stoudemire did not immediately respond to interview requests, but her Instagram post suggests she may not be satisfied with a one-time exception. She criticized the association’s policy in general and made common cause with all families who might be affected by it.
“It saddens me as a fan that [Deuce] might be forced to withdrawal not to mention other non-Israeli citizens whose families come to this beautiful country to live temporarily because of jobs and or religious reasons the case my be. My son won’t be the last American citizen to be here in Israel who as an 10 year old had to come with his family can’t play. My son wasn’t the first nor will be the last non-Israeli son or daughter that will want to continue his athletic skills while living abroad.”
Avraham Zukman, the head of physical education in the Education Ministry, said Deuce would be able to play school basketball starting in seventh grade, when the league starts in Israel. Schools sports teams are allowed to accept only two players from other districts with the aim of preventing the formation of dominant sports programs, he said. But Zukman said the rule does not apply to non-Israeli students who enter the system before seventh grade.