(JTA) — In an unusual show of support for Israel, a number of professional athletes and sports teams issued statements about Hamas’ invasion of the country, which has left over 900 dead.
“The NBA and [the NBA Players’ Association] mourn the horrific loss of life in Israel and condemn these acts of terrorism,” the NBA posted on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. The league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, is Jewish. “We stand with the people of Israel and pray for peace for the entire region.”
Numerous NBA teams then reposted the league’s message. The Washington Wizards, the team of the NBA’s lone Israeli player, Deni Avdija, posted that they “stand with the people of Israel.” Avdija himself posted a lengthy statement on Instagram, writing that he personally knows some of the victims and that “while I’m here playing ball, my thoughts are constantly pulled back to Israel.”
NBA star Kyle Kuzma, Avdija’s teammate on the Wizards, posted, “Israel ❤️🙏 just terrible stuff happening right now and my prayers with them!!”
The MLB posted a statement on Monday afternoon, writing on X that the league is “horrified by the acts of terrorism committed against the people of Israel” and is “heartbroken for the people of Israel.”
Baltimore Orioles Israeli pitcher Dean Kremer, who was born in California to Israeli parents and has played for Team Israel in international tournaments, shared the MLB’s message on Instagram with a Hebrew note saying, “There are no words. My heart just got ripped to shreds.”
Kremer is likely to start the Orioles’ playoff game Tuesday — which they have to win to stay alive in the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers — and Orioles beat reporter Dan Connolly tweeted that some of Kremer’s teammates have checked in on him.
Many of Kremer’s teammates from Team Israel also reshared the MLB’s post, including rookies Matt Mervis and Zack Gelof and Orthodox prospect Jacob Steinmetz. Boston Red Sox pitcher Zack Weiss, another Team Israel alum, posted an Instagram story about the conflict, and Team Israel coach and former big leaguer Kevin Youkilis posted a photo of himself in his Team Israel jersey with the caption “I stand with Israel 🇮🇱🙏.”
Similar messages of support have poured in from across the sports world over the past three days, including from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is Jewish and a longtime supporter of Israel.
Other teams that shared posts of support for Israel include the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, Miami’s MLB and NBA teams, the New York Jets, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia 76ers, among others. Cincinnati Reds assistant pitching coach Alon Leichman, who is Israeli, also posted a message of support.
Detroit Lions player Alex Anzalone shared that his parents are currently in Jerusalem, pleading with the U.S. government to help them safely evacuate. “It’s hard,” Anzalone told the Detroit News. “(It’s) really all I’ve been thinking about.”
Anzalone’s parents are reportedly part of a group of 53 Americans who arrived in Israel on Oct. 2 as part of a tour group through their church in Naples, Florida. Rep. Byron Donalds, who represents the area in Congress, posted about the group on X, to which Anzalone replied: “My parents are in this group. Please get my parents home… @POTUS,” tagging President Joe Biden’s official account.
Amar’e Stoudemire, the former NBA star who converted to Judaism and played professionally in Israel, shared a video on Instagram calling for a ceasefire, saying he “pray[s] for the safety of Palestinian children along with the Israeli children.” Former Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman wrote on X that he is “heartbroken.”
Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla spoke about the war during his pregame press conference on Sunday, saying, “there should be a lot of thoughts and prayers” for Israelis.
“I went this past year and I went in 2016,” Mazzulla said. “It doesn’t matter what you are, whether you’re a Muslim, whether you’re Jewish or Christian, Israeli or Palestinian. They’re people and they go through a lot of dangerous times and situations. Our country is 400 years old and they’ve been going through suffering for 10,000 years. You start to see the perspective of the world, and it’s a really, really tough area to be. So I think we should all be aware of that.”
In Israel, the conflict has already begun affecting previously planned sports events. The Israeli national soccer team’s upcoming Euro 2024 qualifying match against Switzerland, which was scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed. Matches for Israel’s under-17 and under-21 soccer teams were also postponed.
“In light of the current security situation in Israel, UEFA has decided to postpone all matches scheduled in Israel in the next couple of weeks with new dates to be confirmed in due course,” the Union of European Football Associations announced Sunday.
Israel’s top basketball and soccer leagues have also postponed games. The Maccabi Ra’anana basketball team is scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Nets in New York on Thursday as the team celebrates a previously scheduled Israeli Heritage Night. (The Jewish Sport Report, JTA’s sports newsletter, and the New York Jewish Week are co-sponsoring the event.)
The Hapoel Tel Aviv Football Club shared on social media that former player Lior Assulin and youth coach Alon Shamli were both killed during the attacks.