Two Brooklyn College Players Kneel During Hativkah at Men's Volleyball Game

By: Fruma Landa and Sara Verschleisser  |  February 25, 2020
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By Fruma Landa and Sara Verschleisser

On Sunday, February 23, two players on the Brooklyn College Bulldogs — a CUNY men’s volleyball team — knelt during the recitation of the Israeli national anthem (Hativkah) during the non-conference match between Brooklyn College and the Yeshiva University Maccabees. The game took place at the Max Stern Athletic Center on the Wilf Campus. 

Traditionally, each game at the Max Stern Athletic Center begins with players standing for the recitation of the American National Anthem and Hativkah. At the start of Hativkah, two players on the Brooklyn College Bulldogs, Omar Rezika (#13) and Hunnan Butt (#15) turned and knelt on the ground, remaining in that position for the duration of the anthem. 

A student who attended the game, Tehilla Teigman, SCW ‘20, expressed her shock to the YU Observer: “I was at the game and Hativkah started playing…I looked to my left and I saw these two guys kneeling and I honestly had to [do] a double take…and I was shocked, my heart felt ripped out of my chest.” She continued, “I’ve played three sports at Stern… and I’ve never even seen one person show any disrespect. [T]hey listen carefully, they sometimes link their arms with each other…this was the first time I’ve seen it and it was really hard to see.”

Following the incident, confusion arose. A tweet from Chovevei Zion reported: “Seems @BrooklynCollege basketball team displayed unsportsmanlike behavior at game vs @YUNews @YUathletics Maccabees. Refused to shake hands after game, began cursing the Jewish players, & tried picking fights. We call on @cuny to investigate the antisemitic behavior immediately!” Later, the tweet was corrected to reference the volleyball team. 

However, the official YU Maccabees Twitter account @YUathletics has reported the contrary. In response to the tweet from Chovevei Zion, they replied: “Your tweet is not accurate. Please rest assured that if anything like that should ever occur we would handle it through the proper channels.”

In return, Chovevei Zion responded to the YU Maccabees: “We are not sure why you are defending outright antisemitism. Bizarre. There’s video & multiple witnesses, including obviously your own volleyball team. Feel free to actually go & ask them. Meanwhile we will continue to stick up & defend your students.” 

In fact, one anonymous player on the YU men’s volleyball team commented to the YU Observer: “It was really disgusting what the athlete did, it is the procedure to shake hands after the game and he chose to disrespect us and not do it.” 

A statement from a spokesperson from Brooklyn College reported to the YU Observer: “Brooklyn College strongly condemns all forms of Anti-Semitism and hatred. The two students who knelt during the national anthem did not refuse to shake hands with players from the other team. Their kneeling is protected by the First Amendment.”

It is unclear at this time what exactly occurred between the teams when they lined up to shake hands. 

Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, commented to the YU Observer: “It is unfortunate that some members of the opposing team disrespected Israel’s national anthem. We are proud to be the only university who sings both the American and Israeli national anthems before every athletic competition and major event. Nothing makes me prouder to be an American than living in a country where our religious freedom, our zionism and our commitment to our people will never be impeded and always be prized.”

At this time, the CUNY Athletics Conference administration and the Yeshiva University Athletics Department have not responded to the YU Observer’s requests for comment.

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Photo: YU Macs Volleyball Team

Photo Source: YU Macs

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