Footy legends Garry Lyon and Tim Watson have been criticized for failing to stop a caller to their radio show who launched a disgraceful anti-Semitic rant about recent Jewish star Harry Sheezel.
Sheezel, a highly-rated forward who was drafted by North Melbourne with pick three in the recent AFL draft, was subjected to vile anti-Semitic abuse at a Facebook post by The Age which promoted a story about the 18-year-old’s Jewish descent and journey on foot.
Instead of celebrating the heartwarming fact Sheezel was the first Jewish player drafted since Ezra Poyas in 1999, some fans decided to lash out with disgustingly anti-Semitic tropes.
A North Melbourne fan identified as “John from Epping” called Lyon and Watson while on their SEN radio show on Friday and began talking about the dangerous stereotypes Jews have been subjected to for hundreds of years.
Jewish star Harry Sheezel (right, pictured with new North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson on draft night) has been subjected to horrific anti-Semitic abuse
“We have this Jewish player (in the draft),” John said during the call.
“You know, the Jews, they’re loaded with money, so maybe we don’t have to go to Tasmania anymore, because if we needed money, his parents could probably pay for it.”
Instead of ending the chat or calling out John’s comments, Lyon continued as if nothing inappropriate had been said.
“I wouldn’t worry about that, I’d just worry about the fact that he’s a very, very good player, they think he plays a bit like Stevie Johnson, how about that?”
Garry Lyon, who made the comments, has been criticized for his response to the anti-Semitic caller, and the anti-defamation commissioner said a stronger response was needed
Dr Dvir Abramovich, chairman of Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission, told Daily Mail Australia that the two footy legends did not handle the “dangerous” statements properly.
“The first thing (when dealing with anti-Semitic comments) is not to close your eyes, because racism and bigotry thrive where silence lives,” he said.
“We must shout from the rooftops that this is not acceptable.
“The minute he (John) said what he said, they (Watson and Lyon) should have said ‘John, that’s absolutely unacceptable’ and cut him off… you can’t deal with antisemitism with a joking attitude or turn a blind eye.
“By allowing him (John) to speak, they essentially gave him their stamp of approval and it sent a message to the listeners that this kind of language was legitimate and acceptable … it gave the comments power.”
Dr Dvir Abramovich, who chairs Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission, said it was important that people, especially media personalities, did not turn a blind eye to anti-Semitic speech.
SEN moved to defend Lyon after news broke of the way he and Watson handled the caller, failing to see the point Dr Abramovich made about turning a blind eye.
“Garry only heard one reference and immediately course-corrected with the caller and moved to close the comment,” a SEN spokesperson told news.com.au.
“Garry and Tim spoke to the caller within half an hour of the program ending and raised the issue with him and told him that feeling is not acceptable.”
The fact that the comment was still up on SEN’s website in their podcast section on Tuesday, in a pretty obvious example of their actions speaking louder than words.
Dr Abramovich said he hoped Lyon and Tim Watson (pictured) would “do some soul-searching and apologize for the lapse of judgment”
Dr Abramovich, in a statement given to Daily Mail Australia, said the situation was “hard to believe”.
“This kind of distorted and prejudiced worldview has fueled violence against Jewish people in the past and should never have been given a platform on a radio show,” he said.
“Indeed, it is hard to believe that these disparaging, deeply hurtful comments came on air and did not raise red flags among the hosts and producers,” he wrote.
“Why didn’t the hosts use the seven second delay to stop this ugly rhetoric from being heard? Almost as bad, SEN chose to post this segment on its podcast.
“I hope that both (Garry and Tim) do some soul-searching and apologize for this judgment,” said Dr Abramovich, who is committed to combating the systemic culture of anti-Semitic speech in person and online.
The Anti-Defamation Commissioner said that of course it was not just racial slurs against Jews.
Harry Sheezel was all smiles on AFL Draft night when he was picked up by North Melbourne at pick three
“It may start with the Jews, but it will not end with the Jews … these kinds of people hate everyone who is different, be it other races, LGBTI+ people, women … we must reject this kind of dehumanization,” Dr Abramovich said .
He pointed to the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was excommunicated by the Nazis during World War II for his outspoken comments about Hitler’s regime, which murdered more than six million Jews.
‘Bonhoeffer said ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself…not speaking is speaking. Not acting is acting … so when you put the blinders on, it only empowers the haters because it’s a green light for their hate,” he said.
Thankfully, many people called out the faceless keyboard warriors on social media who flooded The Age’s since-deleted Facebook post on Sheezel – but the SEN incident is proof that the need to call it out will never stop.
Harry Sheezel (left, pictured with a friend) is the first Jewish player to be drafted since 1999 and has unfortunately already been the victim of a number of anti-Semitic comments
“A Jew who actually works out? Fake news, wrote a troll.
Another repulsive comment asked if the rising star had enough ‘gas in the tank’ in reference to the horrors experienced by the six million Jews murdered by Adolf Hitler in the Second World War.
“This is the reaction to a Jewish boy being called up to play football. Australia, we have an anti-Semitism problem, prominent Jewish writer Alex Ryvchin said, with a wave of people sharing his disgust at the comments.
On the bright side, Sheezel is set to make a huge impact in the AFL under Alastair Clarkson at North Melbourne after a sensational junior career.
The medium-sized forward kicked 36 goals from 14 games in the elite NAB League, winning a premiership with the Sandringham Dragons.
He kicked four decisive goals in the grand final against Dandenong and the 18-year-old, who attended the prestigious Mount Scopus Jewish day school, is determined to be a role model for kids just like him.
You get these kids that you’ve never seen come up to you and say, “Oh, ‘you’re Harry Sheezel,’ I go to Scopus too. You see these kids, they look at me the way I used to look at Lance Franklin. And it’s just like, wow, I can be such a positive role model and influence for these kids,” he recently told Code Sports.
“There is sometimes a bit of pressure, like if you don’t perform, am I letting them down? But I think I have the faith that I think I can make it more positive than negative.
“I think that’s what I’m going to look like, I just want it to be more mainstream, I definitely think it could be,” Sheezel said of the chance more Jewish players would make a name for themselves in the AFL.