So baseball great Reggie Jackson, haggling with an artist over a painting, jokingly asked him, “Are you Jewish?” A foolish comment, made all the more foolish by the fact that it was made in earshot of a New York Post video camera. The cameraman followed up by asking Jackson why he said that, to which he replied, “because he’s always working me.”
The Post ran with it, UPI and Fox picked it up and now Jackson is explaining to the Post that he wouldn’t insult a Jewish person. “I am a minority. I don’t do that. I don’t go there,” he told the Post.
Was Jackson’s joke in poor taste? Yeah. Was it funny? No. Is it proof of any hostility to Jews? Not really. After all, Jews have been known, on occasion, to make similarly tasteless jokes, and sometimes they’re even funny. (Even if we don’t buy into — no pun intended — such stereotypes, they can make good fodder for humor.) And Jackson was always known almost as much for his big mouth as for his clutch hitting.
The artist himself, who is Jewish, told the Post that he didn’t think Jackson was antisemitic: “I think he was joking… that I had chutzpah.” Then again, he had a fiduciary interest in defending Jackson, who had just paid him $1,500 for his painting. (And no, I’m not making a Jewish joke.)
The worst part of this whole teapot tempest is that all-star slugger Ryan Braun — whose father is Israeli, but whose mother isn’t Jewish — is now being asked by reporters to weigh in. (As JTA’s Ami Eden cleverly quipped, “Braun is expected to play Abe Foxman instead of left field.”)
The best part of the brouhaha, however, is that it provided the Brewers outfielder with an opportunity to indicate his willingness to step up to the plate for the tribe. There had been questions about how strongly Braun — who has been dubbed “the Hebrew Hammer” by some excited fans — identifies as Jewish. But regarding being asked by a reporter about Jackson’s remarks, Braun explained, “I think that it’s something that comes with the territory. There aren’t too many Jewish athletes at the highest level. It’s something that I certainly embrace. But there are times when people expect me to be aware of issues, like that specific example. I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about.”
Hat tip: JTA’s Telegraph