Arthur Weinreb

Plenty of blame to go around after Jewish man kicked out of Raptors game

On Feb. 22, an NBA game was held between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. Both the team and the arena are owned by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE). Gary Grill and Leora Shemesh, both Jewish Greater Toronto Area criminal lawyers, were in the arena and went to get a drink. They were approached by a security guard who asked them to wait because someone from management wanted to talk to them.

Grill was wearing a hoodie with a Star of David on the back and above the star were the words “FREE OUR HOSTAGES.” The security guard had told them Grill’s hoodie was “too political” and was in violation of MLSE policy of not allowing political statements inside Scotiabank Arena. Grill was given two choices; remove the hoodie or leave. He and Shemesh decided to leave.

The next day Joe Warmington wrote about the incident in the Toronto Sun. As a result of the publicity, MLSE issued a statement that read:

“As part of the MLSE venues Fan Code of Conduct, it states that fans have the right to expect an environment where they can enjoy the event free from, among other things, political or inciting messages. With fan security in mind, it has been a long-standing policy at MLSE venues that signs or clothing bearing political messages are not permitted and this policy is implemented fairly and consistently to protect the experience of all fans. In this instance, the fan in question was offered a number of options to comply with this policy, which they refused and chose to leave the venue of their own accord.”

Whoever wrote that statement just made things worse. Not for the antisemitism within MLSE although that is what it was; after all antisemitism is perfectly acceptable now in Justin Trudeau’s Canada. The author of that poor excuse of a justification doesn’t know what is or is not “political.” Since when and in what universe is saying innocent babies, children, men and women who have been taken hostage after being assaulted, raped and tortured, should be freed “political?” In no other situation where innocent people are kidnapped and held hostage would calling for their release be deemed “political” and therefore controversial. But apparently to MLSE, calling for the release Israeli hostages is political. This is nothing more than antisemitism.

The second thing wrong with that statement is political statements are allowed within MLSE venues; just not statements in support of Jews if in fact calling for release of the hostages is political. The game Grill and Shemesh went to watch was held during Black History Month and Black Lives Matter was being celebrated. Scotiabank Arena and its teams have also paid homage to the LBGTQ community. Apparently, according to the media release these events are not political but somehow calling for the release of infants, children and babies captured by terrorist groups is. It is antisemitism; there is no other way to describe it. And since MLSE cannot see that or don’t care, no apology was ever made.

Black Lives Matter = Not Political           Free Our Hostages = Political

As well, Scotiabank Arena hosted this season’s National Hockey League All-Star game and the American national anthem was sung by Kiana Lede. She showed up wearing a sweater patterned like a keffiyeh. At least she warned the fans. She said, “If you’re a Zionist feel free to stay your ass at home.” This of course was perfectly acceptable to MLSE.

Obviously political and controversial statements are allowed to be made in Scotiabank Arena. But only the statements MLSE agree with.

On Mar. 5, the New Orleans Pelicans were in Toronto to play the Raptors. About 75 people showed up wearing the same hoodie Grill was wearing when he was accosted by Scotiabank Arena security and management. The group were all “carded;” given a card saying their clothing was in violation of MLSE policy and if the offensive messages were not removed the wearers could be ejected from Scotiabank Arena or issued a Notice of Trespass. In what management no doubt thought was a magnanimous gesture, the offending fans were even offered other clothing to wear on top of or instead of the hoodies with the simple call to release the hostages. In the end some of the people removed their hoodies but put them on back later. No one was ejected from the arena and no one was issued a Notice of Trespass. No doubt MLSE wasn’t prepared for Jews to fight back.

Joe Warmington, a longtime Toronto Sun columnist and a staunch defender of the Jewish people and Israel compared the handing out of cards to the Nazis giving Jews yellow stars to wear. Agree or not, Jews were certainly singled out for their “political statements.”

There is no doubt Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was at fault for their misrepresentations about political statements not being allowed in Scotiabank Arena and for their treatment of those wearing clothing calling for the release of Israeli hostages. But others are also responsible for the way Jewish fans who simply wanted to watch a basketball game were treated. Others created the climate for MLSE to make what they did perfectly acceptable.

The Toronto police are to blame for letting the mob run freely, calling for the death of Jews. The Toronto police are to blame for allowing the pro-Hamas crowd to go into Jewish neighborhoods and intimidate Jewish people. The police are to blame for doing nothing when the mob shouted and screamed in front of Mt. Sinai Hospital and planted a Palestinian flag on the outside of the building despite specific laws preventing this. The police are to blame for allowing the mob to cancel political events including one in which Justin Trudeau was supposed to host for Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The Toronto police are to blame for allowing the mob to descend on malls before Christmas when children were waiting to see Santa Claus. And the Toronto police are to blame for MLSE thinking disturbances and possibly violence could result from those who have been given the green light to protest anywhere and everywhere.

Politicians, especially Toronto’s political leaders; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Olivia Chow are also to blame. They remain largely silent when vile acts of antisemitism were perpetrated, not only emboldening the pro-Hamas mobs but setting the tone for companies such as MLSE to do what they did to Grill, Shemesh and the others.

And much of the mainstream media is to blame for largely ignoring increasing antisemitism and disseminating the talking points of Hamas, a designated terror group, as news. So while MLSE are to blame for what amounts to acts of antisemitism, the police, politicians and mainstream media are just as much at fault.

Kiana Lede is the last person responsible adults should look to for advice. But when it comes to paying money to MLSE for sporting and other events perhaps you should do what she said and “stay your ass at home.”

About the Author
Arthur is a former columnist for Canada Free Press and its predecessor Toronto Free Press. He began writing for these publications in 1996 and was Associate Editor between 1999 and 2020.. In addition, he is the co-author of "The Criminal Lawyers' Guide to Immigration and Citizenship Law." (Canada Law Book, 1996). He has also written news for other Internet sites and my work has been linked to such news sites as the Drudge Report and Newsmax.
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