Palestinian-American and New York Jets offensive lineman Oday Aboushi defended himself Friday against the accusations of an online magazine claiming he was sympathetic to “anti-Semitic and terrorism propaganda.”
The Frontpage Magazine story, which was published Tuesday and written by Joe Kaufman, labeled Aboushi a “Muslim Extremist” and suggested the Brooklyn-native had terrorist associations after attending a three-day Palestinian-American cultural networking event hosted by El Bireh Society in Arlington, VA.
The story caused a wave of media attacks including a Yahoo Sports column, which has since been removed, that stated the NFL player was an anti-Semitic activist and an employee of Major League Baseball tweeted a line comparing Aboushi to Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end charged with murder, before issuing an apology.
Angered by the attacks on his character and reputation, Aboushi released a statement Friday in response to the story.
"It is upsetting to see people try and tarnish my reputation without even knowing me," he said in a statement issued by the team. "But I appreciate all the support I have been getting from people of all backgrounds across the city and country."
Similar to the speech he gave at the annual El Bireh Society convention, Aboushi expressed his pride for his Palestinian roots as well as being born and raised in America and having the opportunity to play in the NFL.
"As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said, "I hope that both sides make peace and live in prosperity."
El Bireh Society described Aboushi as the “epitome of the American success story” in a statement of support after the stream of hateful media attacks.
“He serves as an excellent role model and inspiration to our youth,” the statement said. “Our best wishes go out to Oday and his family, as we and many others stand with him against those who would perpetuate racism and bigotry.”
The online magazine, edited by well-known Islamophobe David Horowitz, additionally cited Aboushi for tweeting and posting anti-Semitic photos “portraying an evil looking Orthodox Jew” and praising a conference sponsored by Islamic Relief, an organization labeled as a front for Hamas and tied to al-Qaeda groups by the Israeli government.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement in Aboushi's defense, saying "there's a lot of exaggeration and hyperbole in all the talk about" the player.
"Absolutely nothing in the public record suggests Aboushi is anything other than a young American athlete who takes pride in his Palestinian heritage," ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said. "His participation in a conference organized by the El-Bireh Society, a Palestinian community organization that was until recently defunct, should not be used to tar him as an extremist."
Aboushi was drafted in the fifth round by the Jets out of Virginia. He is one of a few Palestinian-American players to enter the NFL, including former linebacker Tarek Saleh, former quarterback Gibran Hamdan, and former defensive lineman Nader Abdallah.
The Jets, in a statement, said they "strongly believe in diversity, inclusion and tolerance of others." While not directly addressing the issues involving Aboushi, the team added that "we also encourage all of our employees to use good judgment when exercising their rights to freedom of expression and speech to be certain that they are constructive and respectful."