By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Jets rookie offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, one of the few Palestinian-Americans to play in the NFL, defended himself Friday against a website's article that called him a "Muslim extremist."
Aboushi was angered by the story, published Tuesday by FrontPage Magazine, as well other comments in response to the piece.
"It is upsetting to see people try and tarnish my reputation without even knowing me," he said in a statement issued by the team. "But I appreciate all the support I have been getting from people of all backgrounds across the city and country."
The Brooklyn-born Aboushi, who now lives on Staten Island, was drafted in the fifth round by the Jets out of Virginia. He is one of just a small handful of Palestinian-American players to enter the NFL, including former linebacker Tarek Saleh, former quarterback Gibran Hamdan, and former defensive lineman Nader Abdallah.
Aboushi told The Associated Press in an interview in May that being a Palestinian-American in the NFL was "an honor" and added that for being able to "kind of break that mold and sort of open the door for other people and show them that it is possible, it's a great feeling."
In the statement Friday, Aboushi again expressed pride in his culture, as well as in being born and raised in the United States and having a chance to play in the NFL.
"As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said, "I hope that both sides make peace and live in prosperity."
The story on FrontPageMag.com said Aboushi's "latest infraction" came last month when he was in Virginia and "gave a speech at a radical Muslim conference sponsored by a group denying Israel's right to exist and associated with blatantly anti-Semitic and terrorist propaganda."
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement in Aboushi's defense, saying "there's a lot of exaggeration and hyperbole in all the talk about" the player.
"Absolutely nothing in the public record suggests Aboushi is anything other than a young American athlete who takes pride in his Palestinian heritage," ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said. "His participation in a conference organized by the El-Bireh Society, a Palestinian community organization that was until recently defunct, should not be used to tar him as an extremist."
Foxman added that being pro-Palestinian "does not mean you're an anti-Semite or an extremist. ... The record simply does not show that Aboushi has crossed that line."
The Jets, in a statement, said they "strongly believe in diversity, inclusion and tolerance of others." While not directly addressing the issues involving Aboushi, the team added that "we also encourage all of our employees to use good judgment when exercising their rights to freedom of expression and speech to be certain that they are constructive and respectful."
The team reports for training camp in Cortland, N.Y., on July 25.
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