Below is an open letter signed by luminaries such as Angela Davis and Alice Walker as well as athlete-activists such as John Carlos and Craig Hodges, and organizations including Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. The letter asks NFL players to consider the political ramifications of a propaganda trip organized by the Israeli government that aims to prevent players from seeing the experience of Palestinians living under military occupation. It is a trip, as the letter makes clear, that “aims to use your fame to advance their own agenda: an agenda that comes at the expense of the Palestinian people.” Details of the trip, which was supposed to be private, were published in the Times of Israel, and this letter is the response. (Note: the Times of Israel article states that New England Patriot Martellus Bennett is a part of this delegation. I have confirmed that this is not the case. Also please note that other players mentioned in the Times of Israel article are reevaluating whether they will attend.)
To the NFL Delegation to Israel:
We are writing to you as individuals and groups who work in support of human rights and collective liberation and admire many of you who have been outspoken in movements for freedom and justice in the United States.
We have been especially inspired by you using your celebrity to shed light about and support various struggles including Black Lives Matter. The decision by Martellus Bennett to boycott the upcoming Patriots team visit to the White House following the Super Bowl win is especially brave and sends a clear message that one must take a stand against racism and oppression.
Based on the public dedication to social justice that many of you share, it came as a surprise to us to see that you will be going on a tour of Israel next week sponsored by the Israeli government as part of an effort to get you to “become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.” We would ask that you reconsider attending. These trips bringing celebrities to Israel are part of a larger “Brand Israel” campaign to help the Israeli government normalize and whitewash its ongoing denial of Palestinian rights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dedicated a lot of resources to this campaign, which is designed explicitly to improve Israel’s image abroad to counter worldwide outrage over its massacres and war crimes. Speaking about your trip, Israel’s head of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan said, “The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanction] campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport.” In other words, they are aiming to use your fame to advance their own agenda: an agenda that comes at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Palestinians have chosen boycott as a tactic only after exhausting so many other approaches, and with the guidance of black South Africans who called for BDS against the apartheid regime until it ended. As you are probably aware, the cultural boycott, including sports, was of particular significance in challenging apartheid in South Africa.