“Businesspeople can make a difference,” Anthony Davidson, dean of the Fordham University School of Professional and Continuing Studies, said when discussing why he believes an upcoming symposium on anti-Semitism in sports is significant for the business community.
“They’re influencers and they’re thinkers,” he told the Business Journal. “And if you’re a businessperson and you’re sitting at the game and somebody next to you makes a remark that is anti-Semitic, that is gender biased, that is racist. Then you have to speak up and say something.”
Davidson said while sports can be an environment in which many forms of racism and anti-Semitism flourish, “What we can do is use sports as a catalyst for change and we can change the dialogue and that will be the focus, to build some thought leadership that will come out of this.”
The School of Professional and Continuing Studies has three campus locations: Lincoln Center in Manhattan; Rose Hill in the Bronx; and West Harrison in Westchester. The “Global Symposium on Sports and Society: Anti-Semitism and Sports” is to be held on Sept. 25 at the McGinley Campus Center on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. An eight-hour event is planned from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hundreds of industry executives, athletes, journalists, scholars and activists from around the world are expected to attend. The event is being presented in conjunction with the Chelsea Football Club of England and New England Revolution’s Final Whistle on Hate campaign.
The Chelsea Football Club of U.K.’s Premier League and Major League Soccer team New England Revolution created the Final Whistle on Hate partnership in 2018 to promote tolerance and fight anti-Semitism.
Among the announced speakers for the symposium are: Bruce Buck, chairman of the Chelsea Football Club; Ross Greenburg, former president of HBO Sports; Anna Isaacson, a senior vice president of the National Football League; Howie Rumberg, global sports editor for the Associated Press; Leigh Steinberg, chairman and CEO of Steinberg Sports & Entertainment; sportscaster Spencer Ross; and NFL Hall of Fame offensive tackle Ron Mix.
“I made two things very clear to my team when we embarked upon this project,” Davidson said. “I do not want any politicians involved at all. I do not want this to be a platform to make it in any way political and I don’t want any vendors because I don’t want it commercial.”
Ken Jacobson, another of the speakers and deputy director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “At ADL, we are all too familiar with this dangerous climate of rising anti-Semitism. From 2015 to 2018, we have documented a 99% increase in anti-Semitic incidents, including assault, harassment and vandalism. The sports world is no exception and it’s a step forward that industry leaders are realizing the important role they play in combating hate.”
“There are now groups of extremists and hate groups that are attending games and inciting things in Europe specifically and especially in soccer,” Davidson said.
He cited banners displayed at some European soccer games, which have phrases as overt as “Jews to the Ovens.”
“You will have people throwing banana skins at players of color and many chants and attacks, physical and emotional, on players. But, it also happens in the United States. It happens in locker rooms,” he said.
Davidson said that while racism and anti-Semitism surface in worldwide soccer, it is by no means the only sport. He mentioned lacrosse, cycling and track, and recalled the 1936 Olympics in Germany where U.S. athletes Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller were pulled from competing in the 4×100 meter relay ostensibly to preclude the possibility that German Chancellor Adolf Hitler would have to acknowledge Jewish athletes as winners.
“My mother is a survivor of the concentration camps. She was in Auschwitz and I will tell you that growing up, me personally in England, as a Jewish player of different sports in my high school, we were subject to anti-Semitic remarks every game that we played and most of those games ended up with some kind of fighting,” Davidson said.
He recalled that he and his friends sometimes were attacked with baseball bats.
Davidson said he wants the symposium to be an action-oriented playbook for doing more than just talking about what’s happening in the world and Fordham is the right place to be holding it. “I’ve seen how committed it is to social justice. They live and breathe it and everybody there has so embraced this concept and my school in particular. I can think of no better place to do this than Fordham University in view of its values,” he said.
More information, including details regarding ticket availability, can be found by looking up the symposium on the events section of Fordham’s website at news.fordham.edu/events.