It’s been 11 days since Delmon Young was arrested in New York on a hate crime harassment charge. And while Young returned to the field from suspension this past weekend, he’s still attempting to repair his image in the eyes of those who now view him as an anti-Semite for allegedly shouting epitaphs at a group of tourists, causing a bizarre scuffle outside of a hotel. As part of that image restoration strategy, Young reached out last week to a Detroit-area rabbi. Rabbi Josh Bennett joined WXYT in Detroit to detail what he and Delmon Young spoke about during their recent meeting. He also explained his reaction to the Young incident and elaborated on the advice he gave to Young.
His initial reaction to the Young story:
“My first reaction was very negative. Obviously as the Jewish community throughout history has been persecuted, we often look for moments like this and say, ‘See, people don’t like the Jewish community!’ And I think that’s what happens in many minority communities. We first look for reasons to feel persecuted or attacked. And then after listening a little bit longer, it became fairly clear that we really didn’t understand the full scope of the story. And even today after talking to Delmon, I still don’t really know the full story. What I do know, though, is that we all make mistakes. And it’s hard to peg somebody’s entire personality on one singular moment of their life. This is not what I would consider to be a Mel Gibson moment, where over and over and over he has proven himself to be fairly anti-Semitic in his actions, in his words. This is one singular moment where a young player made a stupid error under the influence of alcohol. And quite frankly, I don’t even know what he really said. What I do know is in talking to him, he is clear about proving to everybody that he is not anti-Semitic.”
If Young seemed genuinely concerned about his remarks:
“Absolutely. Look, there’s a lot of aspects of this that are challenging. He was fined a significant amount of money from Major League Baseball. Obviously the suspension challenged him and took him out of his game and I think he’s bothered by that. But nothing bothers him more than what I heard in my conversation with him, which is that he’s upset that people might consider him to be bigoted or racist or anti-Semitic. Delmon grew up in a community where that wasn’t accepted. His parents would never have allowed him to act or behave in the way that he’s being portrayed, and he’s concerned that this one incident — not minor, he recognizes that if something was said that was anti-Semitic, it’s a problem for him and his career and in the community — but he wants to figure out a way to explain to people and help people understand that that’s not really how he hopes to live his life.”
What his advice was for Young:
“Well first of all, it’s hard for me. It was the first time I’ve spoken to him, so it’s hard for me to make any judgments after a brief half-an-hour conversation. So the first step is for us to build a relationship together. And through me, as an individual, I hope to lead him to connecting to the Jewish community in larger doses. I’m hoping that he’ll be able to reach out not just to Jewish kids but to all kids to explain to them how quickly a small moment, a bad decision can balloon into something really more challenging. And he’s really open to it. He’s open to speaking to the Jewish community, he’s open to speaking to young people who are aspiring to be baseball players. My own son is a 9-year-old travel baseball player and Delmon’s excited about the opportunity to help kids recognize that the play on the field is just as important as the way they behave off the field.”