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Thoughts on the Oday Aboushi Situation


Thursday morning Scott drew my attention to an article by an online publication about Jets rookie offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, who is Palestinian-American. The publication was Front Page Mag. It called Aboushi a radical Islamist and insinuated he has sympathy for terrorist organizations. We chatted briefly about whether we should write about it but both quickly came to the conclusion the "evidence" the article presented seemed very flimsy, sensationalistic, and one-sided. It was not worth providing Front Page Mag any attention. Then I dug a little deeper and found that Front Page Mag is fronted financially by a man named David Horowitz. According to the Anti-Defamation League, David Horowitz himself, “has sponsored ‘Islamofascism Awareness Week,’ a project on college campuses that promotes anti-Muslim views and features events with anti-Muslim activists.” The Center for American Progress has named him as one of the biggest culprits in spreading a fear of Islam. Horowitz’s rebuttal? He claimed the Center joined the Muslim Brotherhood. So yeah, this dude's publication being critical of a player of Palestinian descent did not pass the smell test.

Since then, the story has grown. A since-removed Yahoo Sports article largely regurgitated the Front Page Mag argument and took Aboushi to task. Then a Major League Baseball employee compared Aboushi to Aaron Hernandez on his Twitter account. He has since apologized.

The original Front Page Mag article was big on guilt by association, conjecture, and arbitrarily assigning the worst possible motives to Aboushi and his actions. Aboushi spoke out against the article yesterday. The Anti-Defamation League also came to Aboushi's defense with a strongly worded statement denouncing the Front Page Mag article.

I don't see any need to go deeper on the content of the article. The Daily Beast, The Nation, and Deadspin have already done a thorough job taking apart all of the flaws in the Front Page Mag article, which essentially span the entire article.

Instead, I would like to talk about the reactions we saw to the article. Adam Waksman is the name of the writer who penned the Yahoo article. Jonathan Mael was the MLB employee who tweeted. Waksman's article has been deleted. Mael deleted his tweet and apologized.

I think it probably would be fair to say both took an ill-advised course of action jumping on this story. They both probably should have vetted the source and scrutinized the evidence better instead of taking it at face value. There are undoubtedly people who read Waksman's article and Mael's tweets without seeing the retractions. Some of these people probably will have negative connotations with Aboushi's name from now on as a result. That is truly a shame given how flimsy the content of the article is.

Waksman and Mael have both been heavily criticized from many angles. While I personally think both erred in judgment, I think piling on them misses an opportunity to have a more significant discussion about why this incident happened and gained steam and lessons we can learn.

The first and most obvious lesson is to not take unfamiliar authors at their word. On the internet, anybody can say anything. Many websites do not fact check, lie, and distort things intentionally to spin a story to a certain angle. It is always important to check for validity on your own. Many people fell for this Front Page Mag story hook, line, and sinker without doing the research that would have led one to believe this publication was not credible. They did not wait for a group like the Anti-Defamation League to weigh in. When the most vile claims imaginable are being made about a man, it really behooves us all to check things out thoroughly before we come to a conclusion.

I do not think this alone explains what happened to Aboushi. This takes us to a very uncomfortable place. It's a place we usually try to avoid visiting, but I do not think this story is going away so I feel it is necessary we go here. In the eyes of some, the charges made against Aboushi were viewed as more credible than they should have been due to the fact he is a Palestinian-American. The same charges made against a white man such as myself would not carry the same resonance or suspicion to many. I do not think this is debatable.

Over the past few days, I have been scanning sites, sports, news, and political regarding this story. As I expected, I saw many people defend Aboushi. As I expected, I also saw some truly vile and disgusting comments about him. There was, however, one similar comment I saw a few different times that jumped off the page to me. I saw multiple commenters say they were worried about something like this when the Jets drafted Aboushi.

These comments left me deeply troubled. What information would anybody have had on Draft day to be worried about Aboushi outside of the fact he is a Palestinian-American? This is where I think we all need to be vigilant. We all know about the ugly bigots who openly profess hatred of other groups. Those folks tend to be a vocal minority and easily marginalized.

Unfortunately, sometimes these issues can be more subtle. Regular, kind people who are tolerant and genuinely believe in diversity and equality can sometimes have feelings inside of them that they do not even realize exist. They can come to the surface at times in ways we do not comprehend. It might be through a joke. It might be through subconsciously putting more credence in a negative story about somebody than we might about a similar story about somebody who was different.

I think an incident like this gives us all a responsibility to reflect on ourselves and explore whether we too might have these feelings. We must do everything within our power to fight and eradicate them. There is far too much senseless hatred and violence in the world sparked by these feelings that has grown into something much greater.

In my travels, I have made friends with people of many racial, ethic, and religious backgrounds. One thing always stuns me thinking about it. Despite all of our different backgrounds and customs, we are all very similar. We all want the same things. We want a comfortable life and to leave the world behind for the next generation a little better.

That is why we owe it to ourselves and the next generation to step up to the plate and do whatever little we can to be part of the solution. This can mean simply setting an example for our kids on how to be tolerant of others. It can mean making clear to a friend that an insensitive joke is not funny and not all right to tell. Alone, we cannot change things across the globe, but we can impact those in our lives who can in turn impact others and on and on.

Do whatever you can to make sure no player ever has to release a statement defending himself like Oday Aboushi did yesterday. Things will not change unless we all resolve to make them change.

Obviously, this post has broken just about every rule this site has about avoiding topics such as politics, race, and religion, but this is an important topic so I ask you to please be sensitive in the comments section.