In Defense of Tiki Barber

Taking a break from the hectic pre-bar mitzvah planning checklist for my sons I checked in on my JTA feed and found the following story making today's news:

NEW YORK (JTA) -- The Anti-Defamation League slammed retired football player and former NBC broadcaster Tiki Barber for jokingly comparing himself to Anne Frank.

In a recent Sports Illustrated profile, the former New York Giants’ running back discussed living with his girlfriend in the attic of his Jewish agent, Mark Lepselter, to hide from the media after splitting with his pregnant wife. "Lep's Jewish," Barber told Sports Illustrated, "and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing."

“Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience,” the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement Thursday. “Tiki Barber's personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.

My reaction--

1) Barber's comment clearly displays both an awareness of European Jewish history and a love of a particular Jew who cared for him. Barber felt persecuted, feared being seen, and needed someone who could protect him. (that he put himself in such a situation is another story) Sounds like a sympathetic read of a personal connection to the Anne Frank story -- the very thing that fifth grade teachers around the country hope for.

2) The Anne Frank story is a story of both the Franks and of Meip Geis and the other brave souls who protected the Franks. I'm not sure who the "our" is that Foxman is talking about. "our experiences" -- is that Jews? Survivors? It makes no sense in the context of the Anne Frank reference.

3)" Abuse?" "Perversion?" -- maybe insensitive, I'd accept that but..it seems like these words one should reserve for those who are truly malicious.

Barber has also been one of my favorite NFL commentators and I hope he continues to work in the sportscasting biz....so it is a shame to read about this attack on his character.