In an Instagram post on Saturday, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James quoted controversial song lyrics by hip-hop artist 21 Savage. The words from the song “ASMR” stated, “We been getting that Jewish money, Everything is Kosher.” The next day, James apologized for the post saying, “I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody.” James maintains a following of 45.8 million people on Instagram, 38th in the world.
The lyrics evoke a prominent stereotype identifying Jewish people as greedy capitalists who control the world’s economy. Yale professor Eliyahu Stern told the Times of Israel in August, “Historically, Jewish materialism was used by anti-Semites seeking to demean the value of Judaism.” The reaction from ESPN sports commentators Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on “First Take” made for a lively debate. Kellerman, a Jewish man, refuted the bigoted accusations, arguing “I don’t believe that either the rapper in this case or LeBron are trying to reinforce some stereotype that Jews are overly concerned about money.”
On the other hand, the outspoken Stephen A. Smith, warned James, “You don’t want any community, particularly the Jewish community feeling like you were coming at them in a negative fashion.” When Kellerman pressed him as to why he singled out the Jews, Smith clarified “the Jewish community is considered very powerful, very formidable, very influential…if the Jewish community has a problem with you, you are going to have a problem.” His rhetoric takes a page out of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, an anti-semitic propaganda piece describing a Jewish plan for global domination.
Smith ensues to describe a Jewish cabal, saying “from our perception, we think about pooling money and resources, we think being together as one, we think about the power structure and the positions that people are in, in terms of influence and decision-making ability.” The stance is in line with conspiracy theorists who claim the Jews control the economy and media. Major Jewish political donors support both sides of the aisle, Sheldon Adelson funds the right and George Soros the left. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senior Advisors to the President, Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, are all Jewish. The Sulzberger family owns the New York Times. Ironically, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and his predecessor David Stern, are Jewish.
Attempts to rationalize the disproportionate presence of Jewish individuals in positions of power have long been seeds for anti-semitism. But what people fail to consider is that Jews have also been awarded 22.5% of Nobel Prizes, despite the fact that the Jewish population comprises less than 0.2% of the world population. This lopsided success is often attributed to Jewish focus on education as a means of escaping persecution. Jewish individuals frequently feel as though they must significantly outperform their Gentile contemporaries in order to reach their same level of success. Perhaps this chip on the shoulder of Jews and not their fiscal proclivities is the reason for “that Jewish money”.