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At Wizards’ Jewish Heritage Night, hostages not center court

A group of audience members was seen chanting ‘Bring them home’ and holding an Israeli flag throughout the game

Marc Rod

Jewish Heritage Night for the Washington Wizards, January 31, 2024

The main program at Wednesday night’s Jewish Heritage Night for the Washington Wizards was noticeably devoid of any mentions of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the 136  hostages still being held by Hamas.

The D.C. basketball team has organized the Jewish heritage event annually, with Wizards veteran Deni Avdija, who is Israeli, as its star. Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, which ended in a 125-109 Wizards defeat, featured the U.S. national anthem sung by a choir from the Adas Israel synagogue, a halftime performance by an Israeli dance troupe and an Avdija bobblehead giveaway.

But the Wizards’ gametime program steered clear of the Oct. 7 attack and the war in Gaza, even as a group of audience members, holding an Israeli flag, chanted “bring them home” at multiple points during the game. 

Advija himself addressed the war and the hostage crisis in broad terms in post-game remarks to hundreds of Jewish fans who stuck around the arena after the game, although the session came after the general audience had otherwise emptied out.

“There are things that are bigger than basketball. Since Oct. 7 we all saw it, and I’ve been dealing with it — my friends are in the army, friends that got hurt, soldiers that got killed, and I’m trying represent and have an awareness,” Advija said. “A lot of people got to understand there’s a lot of things going on, especially with my country.”

“Stay positive, we’ll have better days, and I hope — I know that — hopefully all the hostages will come back,” Advija added at the end of the interview.

The Wizards star urged the audience to remain proud of their Jewish heritage.

“Seeing you guys here makes me very happy in sad days,” he said. “Please don’t ever shy [away] from who we are, who you guys are.”

The team also played a short video clip about a teammate visiting Advija in Israel during the offseason.

Amb. Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, and Deputy Special Envoy Aaron Keyak were in attendance, as well as a diplomat from the Israeli Embassy. The Israeli Embassy did not formally sponsor this year’s event, as it did the Nov. 2022 Jewish Heritage Night game.

Last June, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund made an offer to purchase a 5% stake in the team’s parent company, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, as part of a deal worth more than $4 billion.

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