Utah Jazz clarify policy after rabbi asked to remove pro-Jewish sign

Jan 3, 2024, 6:00 AM | Updated: 9:50 am

Rabbi Avremi Zippel holds up a sign that say’s “I’m a Jew and I’m Proud” during the NBA b...

Rabbi Avremi Zippel holds up a sign that say’s “I’m a Jew and I’m Proud” during the NBA basketball game between the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. (Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

(Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah rabbi said he intended to send Kyrie Irving a message during Monday night’s Jazz game against the Dallas Mavericks. 

The message was clear. Written on a sign that Rabbi Avremi Zippel held up from his courtside Jazz seats, the words “I’m a Jew and I’m proud.” 

“Due to some of the disgusting and anti-Semitic comments that he [Irving] had made last year, we felt that it was important that, as Jews, we attend visibly, proudly,” Zippel told KSL NewsRadio. “Without booing him, without calling him out. Without any sort of verbal expression.”

Irving, an NBA Rookie of the Year and two-time NBA All-Star started with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics, and the Brooklyn Nets before he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2022. Irving shared an X post (formerly Twitter) in 2021, supporting a group named the Black, or Radical, Hebrew Israelites. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists them as a hate group

When Irving refused to denounce the group or the X post, the Nets suspended him for five games. Later in 2022, Nike cut their ties with Irving over the incident.

Monday night’s Jazz game

The rabbi claims that Irving saw the sign he displayed at the Jazz game on Monday night and replied, “Nice, I’m Jewish too.”  Zippel said he replied, “Nice, happy new year.”

But then Zippel said Irving complained to the Dallas Mavericks security staff, who spoke with the Utah Jazz security staff. They asked Zippel to put the signs away, which he did.

But Zippel questions rules originally cited by Jazz security, saying there aren’t any specific rules in the NBA nor in the Jazz Code of Conduct that address this issue. 

On Tuesday, the Utah Jazz clarified their position.  “The Utah Jazz Code of Conduct is in place so that games can be played without distraction and disruption. The part-time employee who told the fans it was the content of the sign that was the problem, was incorrect,” read the Jazz statement.

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Utah Jazz clarify policy after rabbi asked to remove pro-Jewish sign