Thursday, January 21st | 8 Shevat 5781

February 10, 2017 5:37 pm

After Facing BDS Pressure, NFL Player Nixes Participation in Upcoming Group Tour of Israel

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett. Photo: Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons.

Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett. Photo: Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons.

After being pressured by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a prominent American football player has nixed his participation in an upcoming group trip to the Jewish state.

Michael Bennett — a 31-year-old Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks — was supposed to join 10 other National Football League players next week on an Israeli government-sponsored seven-day tour of the Holy Land.

On Thursday, however, Bennett tweeted, “Im not going to Israel.”

Bennett’s tweet followed the publication of an open letter signed by a number of anti-Israel groups and activists calling on the members of the NFL delegation to not go to Israel “to ensure you are standing on the right side of history.”

Earlier this week, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Gilad Erdan said in a statement, “I see great importance in the arrival of this delegation of NFL stars to Israel. I have no doubt that their visit will be a powerful experience for them and I hope that, through their visit, they will get a balanced picture of Israel, the opposite from the false incitement campaign that is being waged against Israel around the world. I hope that the players will present the beautiful face of Israel to their tens of millions of fans in the United States. The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the de-legitimization and BDS campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport.”

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin stated about the trip, “Football stars are a source of inspiration for all American citizens. I am sure that, after the experiences that the players will enjoy in Israel and after they have seen the unique tourist sites and the special atmosphere here, they will become ambassadors of good will for Israel. The Tourism Ministry is hosting this delegation as part of its policy to promote sports tourism which has become an engine for economic growth around the world. The visit of this delegation, in such proximity to the American Super Bowl final, will enhance the exposure of the Israel tourism product to tens of millions of the players’ followers on social media.”

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