ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Diadora executive in South Africa announces boycott of Jewish cricket player

Italy-based sportwear maker mum on local director’s pledge to sponsor no games featuring David Teeger over his pro-Israel stance

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

David Teeger is the captain of South Africa's under-19 national cricket team. (Screenshot from YouTube/The South African Jewish Report via JTA)
David Teeger is the captain of South Africa's under-19 national cricket team. (Screenshot from YouTube/The South African Jewish Report via JTA)

An executive at the South Africa office of the sportswear maker Diadora said that the company would not sponsor events featuring David Teeger, a Jewish cricket player who was demoted after praising Israeli troops fighting Hamas in Gaza.

The report of a boycott action by Diadora South Africa against Teeger appeared in a document published last month by Wim Trengove, a jurist who is heading an independent inquiry into the conduct of Teeger, who was stripped of the captainship of South Africa’s under-19 team for the 2024 Cricket World Cup.

Many Jews and others see Teeger’s demotion as a form of political persecution with a chilling effect on the freedom of expression of South African Jewry, one of the world’s most outspokenly Zionist Jewish communities.

Cricket South Africa, the national association for the sport, demoted Teeger, 19, for saying in a speech on October 22 that he is dedicating an award he’d received “to the State of Israel and to every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the Diaspora.” The Association said the demotion was designed to protect the team from hostile action by pro-Palestinian activists, but many believe it is merely punishing Teeger as it investigated complaints alleging his remarks violated ethical rules.

South Africa last week dragged Israel before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accusing it of perpetrating genocide in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — an allegation Israel has rejected as a baseless libel. Israel invaded the Gaza Strip with the declared goal of dismantling Hamas following the murder by 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists of some 1,200 people, among a string of atrocities, in a murderous rampage in southern Israel on October 7.

Israel’s actions against Hamas have resulted in 24,000 deaths in Gaza, according to unverified statistics provided by Hamas medical authorities in Gaza that include its own terror operatives and victims of failed rocket launches at Israel. Israel says it has killed some 9,000 Hamas operatives in Gaza and blames Hamas for the deaths of non-combatants the terror group uses as human shields.

A view of the Diadora head office in Italy. (Diadora)

Trengove, the lawyer that Cricket South Africa appointed to head the inquiry into the Teeger affair, ruled that Teeger’s comments violated neither his country’s constitution nor the ethics code of his team, the Central Gauteng Lions. Yet he was not reinstated as captain. 

In his ruling, Trengove noted that a director of Diadora South Africa, whom Trengove identified as Azhar Saloojee, had said that the firm “will not tolerate Mr. Teeger playing in any competition sponsored by Diadora.” Diadora is a sponsor of the Jozi Cup,  a community-based winter cricket club in South Africa.

Neither Diadora, an Italy-based company that in 2019 had a turnover of about $170 million, nor its South Africa branch replied to requests for comment by The Times of Israel.

The South African legal team sits during hearings in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the request for provisional measures submitted by South Africa in the case South Africa v. Israel on January 11-12, 2024, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court. (Courtesy International Court of Justice)

The South Africa Israel Chamber of Commerce last month wrote to Diadora to complain about Saloojee’s remarks asking the company to clarify whether he spoke for Diadora. They have received no response.

“Diadora’s execrable threat of withdrawing sponsorship of any competition in which Mr. Teeger participates, is tantamount to blackmail and the destruction of a brilliant young cricketer’s career,” the chamber wrote in its letter.

Separately, the South African Board of Deputies, the main representative body of the country’s organized Jewish community, met on Tuesday with Cricket South Africa officials to protest Teeger’s removal as captain, which Teeger told the board that he opposed.

“CSA’s vacillating and contradictory responses to the questions put to them reinforces our understanding that the excuse provided for Teeger’s removal as captain, namely ‘security concerns,’ is trumped up and bogus,” the board wrote in a statement.

People raise flags and placards as they gather around a statue of late South African president Nelson Mandela to celebrate a landmark ‘genocide’ case filed by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 10, 2024. (Marco Longari/AFP)

Zev Krengel, vice-president of the board, told journalists at an online press conference that his organization intends to complain to the International Cricket Council, the world governing body of the sport, against the South African assosiation.

“We really felt we had to give Cricket SA a chance first,” Krengel said. “We were really hoping that they’d come to their senses and realize what they’d done was antisemitic and discriminatory and racist, and that they would reinstate David.” But the South African association “has no intention” of doing this, he added.

Cricket is widely considered one of the three most popular sports in South Africa, a nation of about 60 million people. According to recent estimates, South Africa’s Jewish population has decreased from 75,000 in 2001 to about 50,000 in 2019.

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