Forward Thinking

Why Ryan Braun Sparked Anti-Semitic Twitter Flood

By Doni Bloomfield

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Ryan Braun

The recent suspension of Ryan Braun, the star Milwaukee Brewers outfielder known affectionately as “the Hebrew Hammer,” has brought in its wake a host of anti-Semitic tweets directed at Braun — and pretty much everyone else of Jewish heritage.

The Huffington Post reported on the Tweets in the best way they could, by compiling a top 10 ten list of the most anti-Semitic responses to Braun’s suspension. Highlights include a charming Tweet by a user named Tyler Winslett: “Of course Ryan Braun took steroids. He’s a Jew, and last I checked, sports aren’t really their thing.”

The sentiment was shared by Ryan Hicken:

Some went with an older anti-Semitic trope:

Justin Credible, whose eloquent tweet, “NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS TO JEWS HAHAHAHAHA” was featured on Huffington Post, simply locked his account and changed his profile summary to “Living life, I am not antisemetic.” [sic]

Braun has been accused on Twitter of being a “Juicing Jew” since allegations of his performance-enhancing drug use began. Bigotry online, and particularly on Twitter, the only major social networking site which doesn’t prohibit hate speech, is rampant and doesn’t take prompting.

“The most anti-Semitic postings about Ryan Braun didn’t begin with his suspension,” says Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights director.

“The [ADL] sees [internet bigotry] as the newest trend in anti-Semitism,” said Lauter, though she noted that it’s difficult to quantify the amount of hate circulating online. Despite the decline in overt anti-Semitic incidents in 2012, as measured by the ADL, a ramp-up in online hate speech is weakening the positive trend.

Anti-Semitism directed at Jewish baseball players is nothing new, says Peter Ephross, co-editor of a new oral history of Jewish major leaguers.

“In 1918, Bob Berman, the catcher for the Washington Senators, was heckled by anti-Semites and the famous pitcher Walter Johnson stood up for him,” Ephross said.

Al Rosen, who, like Braun, won the MVP award, was known to fight anyone who dared insult his Judaism. Still, Ephross thinks the days of widescale anti-Semitism pointed at Jewish players is 30 years in the past.

“Only two types of people know who the Jewish baseball players are,” he assures me. “Jewish baseball fans and virulent anti-Semites.” And you need to search Twitter to find at least one of them.


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