The SACRAMENTO BEE and KCRA-TV in Sacramento report that a large outdoor mural of Sacramento Kings player Omri Casspi, who is Israeli, was defaced with a backwards swastika earlier this week.
Sacto Police Department spokesman Konrad von Schoech said local authorities first learned that the plywood display of the NBA player and his Sacramento Kings teammates had been vandalized midday Wednesday. A Nazi symbol was etched between the eyes of Casspi’s image and the removal of the graffiti appears to have permanently damaged the large portrait.
The vandalism took place just down the street from the California State Capital building. California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said of the defaced mural, “This act of hate and intolerance is despicable and cowardly. It is all the more offensive because it occurred on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish new year.”
Von Schoech said the “hate symbolism” elevates the severity of such a vandalism crime and that local police continue to search for suspects.
Reached at his home in Israel by Bee reporter Ailene Voisin, Casspi said that he was aware of the incident:
“It’s been all over the news over here. Everybody’s talking about it. It’s hurtful to think that this is 2010, and there are still people like that out there. I almost don’t know what to say. It’s probably just some idiot who wants some publicity. But I know the people in Sacramento, and they have been wonderful to me. I know they must feel bad about this. Same thing with the Kings. I’ll just let the police handle this and focus on having a great season.”
Casspi became the first Israeli to play in the NBA last season and will return to Sacramento Monday to begin training for his second season with the Kings.
Ironically, Casspi last week participated in “a basketball camp designed to foster friendships among Israeli and Palestinian youngsters.”
The event was co-sponsored by the NBA and the Peres Center for Peace.