Zev Chafets

Until recently, Micheal Ray Richardson (that's how he spells it) was slightly famous for having once told a sportswriter that his team, the New York Knicks, was "a sinking ship." When the writer asked how far the ship might sink, Richardson replied, "The sky's the limit."

That remark, however, wasn't what got Richardson into trouble; repeated drug use did. He wound up banned from the NBA, a vagabond basketball player in Europe. Lately he has been making a comeback as coach of the Albany Patroons in the Continental Basketball Assn.

But the comeback hit the skids. Once again, sportswriters were involved. Asked about his contract negotiations, Richardson said he didn't expect problems because "I've got big-time lawyers. Big-time Jew lawyers."

Alarmed, the reporters warned Richardson that his words could be considered insulting because they fit the stereotype of Jews as crafty and shrewd.

Richardson didn't even blink. "Are you kidding me?" he demanded. "They've got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They're real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they've got to be crafty. They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean? Which I think is great. I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish [sic]. It's not a knock, but they are some crafty people."

For these observations, Richardson was suspended by the Patroons, forbidden by team owner Ben Fernandez to even attend practice. Predictably, Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised this punishment and demanded an apology: "Micheal Ray needs to understand that when he suggests that all Jews are crafty, that Jews have a lot of money and power, he is conjuring up classic anti-Semitic stereotypes…. We hope that Micheal Ray will realize the pain his words have caused to many people and make clear that he understands why his remarks about Jews were so inappropriate and offensive."

Excuse me, but Richardson didn't say anything offensive (and while we're on the subject of offensive, what's with the "Micheal Ray"? Are he and Foxman first-name buddies?).

In fact, Jews, as a people, are smart, in my experience. And they're proud of it (especially the dumb ones). Wake up a Jew in the middle of the night and he can rattle off the Jewish Nobel Prize winners in alphabetical order. Believe me, I've been a Jew for 59 years, and I know what I'm talking about.

What other hurtful things did Richardson supposedly say? That Israel has the best airport security in the world? This is both true and something Israel itself brags about. That Jews are hated and need to protect themselves? That's the founding premise of the Anti-Defamation League itself.

Sure, Richardson exaggerates when he says that Jews own most sports teams. As far as I can tell, Jews (about 1% of the population) only own about half the teams in the NBA (and a pretty fair proportion in baseball and football too). So what?

As to the observation that Jews run a lot of successful businesses, no kidding. Jews are very likely the most economically successful ethnic group in the U.S. What's the matter with that?

Richardson, who was a popular player in Israel during his NBA exile years, is guilty of nothing more than free speech. Even if his observations were wrong — which they are not — there's nothing at all insulting about them. What is insulting is the notion that you can't speak honestly about Jews without getting into trouble.

At the moment, Jews have real enemies in the world: Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the mullahs of Iran, to name a few. You want to fight anti-Semites, fight them.


Zev Chafets

Zev Chafets is a former columnist for the New York Daily News, as well as the author of nine books of fiction, media criticism, and social and political commentary, including "A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance," published by HarperCollins in January 2007.

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