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AFL greats Garry Lyon and Tim Watson fail to call out anti-Semitic remarks about North Melbourne’s Harry Sheezel on SEN Breakfast

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AFL legends Garry Lyon and Tim Watson have been criticised over an SEN radio segment in which they failed to call out and condemn anti-Semitic comments from a caller.

The comments, made by regular caller ‘John from Epping’, centred around North Melbourne draft pick Harry Sheezel, the first Jewish person to be drafted to the AFL since 1999.

During a call to Melbourne’s SEN Breakfast program on Friday December 2, John, a passionate North Melbourne fan, was asked about his team’s performance in the draft a few nights earlier.

In response the North fan repeated a harmful stereotype of Jewish people, while referencing the fact that the Kangaroos are paid by the Tasmanian government to play home games on the Apple Isle.

“We got this Jewish player (in the draft),” John said.

“You know, the Jewish, they are loaded with money, so maybe, we don’t need to go to Tasmania anymore, because probably if we needed some money his parents might pay for it.”

Lyon then replied: “I wouldn’t worry about that, I’d just worry about the fact that he’s a very, very good player, they reckon he plays a bit like Stevie Johnson, what about that?”

As of Tuesday morning the podcast featuring John’s comments was still available on SEN’s website.

Dr Dvir Abramovich, chairman of The Anti-Defamation Commission, led criticism of Lyon and Watson over the segment, insisting they should have denounced John’s comments at the time they were made.

“When you ignore anti-Semitism, you empower it, and Garry Lyon and Tim Watson have failed us all in not calling out the demeaning stereotype peddled by John that reflects an age-old and dangerous slur about Jews and money,” Dr Abramovich wrote in a statement to news.com.au.

“This kind of warped and prejudiced worldview has fuelled violence against Jewish people in the past and should have never been given a platform on a radio program.

“Public figures bear an outsized moral responsibility to strongly challenge all expressions of anti-Semitism, especially at a time when hatred against the Jewish community in Australia has reached record levels.”

Dr Abramovich went on to question how the comments ever made it to air in the first place.

“It’s actually hard to believe that these disparaging, deeply hurtful remarks made it to the airwaves and that they did not raise any red flags among the hosts and producers,” he wrote.

“Why didn’t the hosts use the seven-second delay to stop this ugly rhetoric from being heard?

“Almost as bad, SEN chose to post this segment on its podcast.”

He went on to say: “I hope that both (Garry and Tim) do some soul searching and apologise for this lapse in judgement.”

In a follow-up statement to news.com.au, Dr Abramovich described the stereotype of Jewish people as being extremely wealthy as: “One of the most pernicious and enduring anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracies”.

In response, SEN argued Lyon made an attempt to change the course of the conversation at the time, and that following the program both hosts contacted John to denounce his comments.

“Garry heard one reference only and immediately corrected course with the caller and moved to shut the comment down,” an SEN spokesman told news.com.au.

“Garry and Tim spoke to the caller within half an hour of the program ending and addressed the issue with him and told him that sentiment is not acceptable.

“Garry and Tim have always stood for an inclusive show for everyone.”

Sheezel, who was taken as the third pick of the AFL Draft, was subjected to disgusting anti-Semitic social media attacks in the hours before he became an AFL player.

The 18-year-old was on the receiving end of a series of slurs after an article about him hit social media.

The comments focused on Jewish stereotypes and made light of the Holocaust.

Sheezel, who has played in the NAB League for premiership team the Sandringham Dragons, kicked 36 goals across the season.

He is the first Jewish player to enter the AFL since Ezra Poyas was drafted by Richmond in 1999.

Story Credit: news.com.au

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