Robert Kraft’s foundation to air ad slamming antisemitism at campus protests during NBA playoffs
The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism’s latest ad features images from pro-Palestinian protests. Photo: (Screenshot from YouTube)

By Jacob Gurvis
May 7, 2024

(JTA) — An ad decrying antisemitism amid the recent wave of campus pro-Palestinian encampments will air during NBA playoff games this week, the latest effort by a national Jewish organization to spotlight threats against Jews at the protests.

The 30-second spot, produced by Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, features images from recent demonstrations, including a torn Israeli flag and a sign showing a swastika superimposed on a Star of David. Those images are juxtaposed with more benign protest visuals: peace signs, megaphones and raised fists.

“When you protest, bring your passion,” the ad begins. “Your tenacity. Your anger. But don’t bring hate to the protest.”

The voiceover goes on to encourage protestors to “scream until you’re red in the face, but don’t scream at the Jewish kid walking to class,” and “threaten to change history, but don’t threaten your Jewish neighbor.” In its press release announcing the ad, FCAS said the commercial’s visuals “include examples of hate from recent protests.” In response to an inquiry from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the organization said the images come from campus protests but did not specify where and when they occurred.

The ad features photos from at least two campuses that have seen unrest: One shot depicts two people wearing Israeli flags as capes opposite Columbia University’s library. Another appears to show a broken window at Hamilton Hall, the Columbia building occupied by protesters. Another shows street clashes near the City University of New York.

The ad does not suggest that the aims of the protest themselves are wrong. But Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, has spoken out against the protests, particularly at his alma mater Columbia, where a sports field and the Jewish student center bear his name. He has said he will not donate to the school until it addresses threats to students.

“I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff, and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken,” Kraft wrote in a statement shared by FCAS shortly after the encampments began.

The ad concludes by displaying a blue square, a logo created by FCAS that signifies opposition to antisemitism, and repeats a theme that is central to the foundation’s approach: “Bringing hate to anyone brings more hate to everyone.”

The spot is the most recent in a series of similar ads aired during major sports events and produced by the foundation, which Kraft founded in 2019. Combating all forms of hate was also the focus of an FCAS Super Bowl ad this year, which drew mixed reviews. That spot was narrated by Martin Luther King’s former speechwriter, Clarence B. Jones.

Tara Levine, the president of FCAS, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in February that the Super Bowl ad “centers around this concept that all hate thrives on the silence of others, and it puts Jewish hate squarely in conversation with other forms of hate.”

The foundation has also aired ads during other high-profile events. An FCAS ad that ran during the Academy Awards dramatized a real-life synagogue bomb threat. Like the others, it depicted relations between Jewish and other faith groups.

The new ad will debut Tuesday night during the NBA playoff matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and will be shown again Wednesday when the New York Knicks face the Indiana Pacers. According to Sports Media Watch, the first round of the NBA playoffs averaged more than 3 million viewers per game.

Last week, FCAS placed a print ad in newspapers across the country in the form of a letter from Kraft, echoing the same message as the TV commercial.

“I believe political issues can be, and most importantly, should be debated,” Kraft writes in the ad. “They should be debated vigorously. But vicious hate speech and physical intimidation, preventing others from feeling safe, pursuing their studies, or having their voices heard is completely unacceptable.”

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