The shocking part wasn’t hearing that an Ohio high school football coach used the word “Nazi” to describe a play call over the weekend. It wasn’t shocking it took an opposing team from a community that according to the latest survey from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, published in 2011, was around 90 percent Jewish. It wasn’t shocking that Beachwood High School’s football players and coaches were subjected to that inflammatory decision days prior to the most sacred Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur. The only shocking part was now-former Brooklyn head coach Tim McFarland had been using that “Nazi” play call for years, according to his former athletic director, predating the game against Beachwood. The necessary checks and balances weren’t in place to remove using that language from the gridiron permanently?
This isn’t locker-room talk. This is talk reserved in the right context for history classes and to describe bigots. It represents hatred and discrimination against several groups, basically if you’re not a white, religious, Christian conservative, Nazism excludes you. Its brand of extreme evil was led by the worst person to ever take a breath on Earth. Throwing around the term Nazi isn’t something to take lightly like it’s Omaha, Da Bomb, Hail Mary, or a jet sweep. Throwing it around willy-nilly is disgusting. And the scenes painted by reports of what took place in the greater Cleveland area over the last week, an affluent area where exposure to Jewish culture isn’t rare, is reprehensible.
A situation serious enough where the Anti-Defamation League has to get involved tells us how disturbing this incident was. The ADL, whose mission is to stop the mistreatment of Jewish people, and provide equal treatment for all, found 2,717 antisemitism events in 2021, a 34 percent increase from 2020. That averages to more than seven such incidents per day. The chain of events were allegedly Beachwood threatening to pull their players off the field at halftime after hearing the “play call” consistently in the first half, only to allegedly hear Brooklyn’s players continuing to use the phrase and other discriminatory language after their team’s coaching staff stopped using the term at the beginning of the third quarter.
I’ve covered high school sports for several years in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Missouri. I’ve lived in plenty of towns where the Jewish population being 1 percent would be overstating reality. Pregame and postgame prayers were commonplace. I heard plenty of teenagers shout things their parents wouldn’t be proud to hear them say, but in the spirit of varsity competition, can be attributed to adrenaline, and truly forgiven. Nothing close to Nazi, which at best is reckless, at worst is prejudiced venom, came close to being said. To use the word so carelessly is beyond comprehension, and an apology doesn’t right the wrongs associated with degrading an entire group of people. And for the “it’s just words” crowd, normalizing the usage of discriminatory language has horrible domino effects. Want an example, pick up a history book, which I believe Brooklyn’s coaching staff didn’t do when it comes to the Holocaust.
It all comes with the right context. The Soup Nazi, an infamous character from Seinfeld, was a joke written by a Jewish person, who is well known for his exploits in Judaism, for a television show with a comedic look on his life. Three of the four main stars of the show are Jewish in real life and the other works, or worked, at a bagel shop. Nothing about that bit from the brain of Jerry Seinfeld happened in an evil sense. And it’s obvious. It’s all about how it’s communicated, something Dave Chappelle only did an alright job with last year on Saturday Night Live. Correcting those wrongs that took place in the Cleveland suburbs is a great first step toward education about why those words hurt so many so much. It’s an easy move from whoever is Brooklyn’s interim coach.