A message projected outside of TIAA Bank Field Stadium launched a conversation about antisemitism in Florida and beyond

Antisemitism’s Continued Impact in Florida

On Oct. 29, about 76,000 college football fans packed TIAA Bank Field Stadium for the annual Florida-Georgia game, also known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Students from both the University of Florida and University of Georgia were in attendance and for the most part it was like any other game. However, something was very different: a projected message appeared on the outside of the stadium saying, “Kanye is right about the jews.”

Rapper Kanye West, now known as Ye, had been relaying antisemitic messages throughout October, and his messages have already shown tremendous impact against the American Jewish community. 

“I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3      On JEWISH PEOPLE     The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic  because black people are actually Jew also    You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda,” West said in his tweet.

In a clip from an interview Ye had with “Drink Champs” Oct. 16, he taunted the brand Adidas. 

“I can say antisemitic things, and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what? Now what?” West said.

Adidas terminated its partnership with West after being pressured on social media with #BoycottAdidas trending on Twitter and other platforms.

West’s antisemitic messages, although taken down, have still shown influence throughout the country. In late October, a banner was hung over an Los Angeles freeway saying “Kanye is right about the Jews,” with demonstrators — who were part of the Goyim Defense League — doing the Nazi salute. This is the same message as the one shown at the Florida-Georgia game a week later.

UF is home to about 6,500 Jewish undergraduate students, making up about 19% of the university’s undergraduate population. After the message defending West’s antisemitic tweet and comments was put up at the Florida-Georgia game, many Florida Jewish students and Jewish allies were angered at the reach these tweets were making.

“My heart dropped. I was just so scared. I was like, there’s no way this finally reached my school, one of the biggest Jewish communities in the nation,” said Tali Ohayon, a Jewish UF student. “I have never experienced antisemitism at school until what happened at the game.”

UF is home to multiple Jewish organizations including Hillel and the Jewish Student Union. Some Greek organizations that were established by Jewish founders also have high Jewish populations, including the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.

Zachary Kashman, president of Zeta Beta Tau, said seeing antisemitism is upsetting and concerning. It’s scary to see an attack on Jewish people, he said. 

“​​It made Jewish members of my organization uncomfortable and worried about their safety,” Kashman said. “If one of us experience antisemitism, all of us feel it.”

A joint Gators-Bulldogs statement was released in the aftermath of the incident. 

“The University of Florida and the University of Georgia together denounce these and all acts of anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and intolerance,” the statement reads. “We are proud to be home to strong and thriving Jewish communities at UGA and UF, and we stand together against hate.”

The SEC and other TIAA Bank Field Arena officials have since come out with statements condemning antisemitism.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has also took a stand against antisemitism after attending the Florida-Georgia game. 

“Gov. DeSantis rejects attempts to scapegoat the Jewish community — it has no place in Florida,” said Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary.

The statement also listed DeSantis’s legislative history in supporting Florida’s Jewish community, as well as Israel.

Florida Democrats said DeSantis had multiple other opportunities to condemn antisemitism in the state but had not. 

In an email from Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Travis Reuther, he said, “It’s clear that this is DeSantis’ electoral strategy to court the most extreme and hateful segments of his base and that he will always be too much of a coward to protect his constituents from neo-Nazis… when the time comes.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced its launching of an investigation into the projection of the antisemitic messages at the game. The Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Office said it found no crime in the displaying of the message. 

“The comments displayed do not include any type of threat and are protected by the First Amendment,” public information officer T.N. Dash said in an email.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there have been 471 reported incidents of antisemitism in 2022 in the America. In Florida, there have been 59 reported incidents. 

The Anti-Defamation League asks that bystanders or victims of antisemitic incidents report them to https://www.adl.org/report-incident.

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.

Featured image: TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida in 2018. Unmodified photo by Excel23 used under a Creative Commons license. (http://bit.ly/3O0aZY3)

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