It happened late in the first quarter, following an explosive 28-yard catch that set Michigan up at Michigan State’s four-yard line. The PA announcer bellowed “Donovan Edwards,” the recipient of J.J. McCarthy’s pass, while the majority of the 111,083 fans on hand unleashed a raucous applause. Thanks to Edwards, Michigan was suddenly poised to take an early lead.
As I sat inside the Michigan Stadium press box, my mind raced back to Wednesday. That’s when I discovered that Edwards had retweeted a post containing disparaging, disgusting antisemitic rhetoric from Ye — formerly Kanye West — the now infamous face of a furious antisemitic movement sweeping the nation.
I didn’t think much of Edwards’s actions at the time. Perhaps it was a result of a subconscious desensitization to hate speech, an unfortunate reality in the world that we live in. At this point, we have a formula that we regurgitate to handle these situations.
Recently, that formula has been leaned on. In September, an extremist group known as GDL placed antisemitic fliers on porches and driveways of off-campus residences throughout Ann Arbor. They distributed these fliers on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
In the aftermath, the University released a carefully-crafted statement, apologizing for GDL’s actions and reaffirming its commitment to creating a secure, diverse environment inclusive of all subsets of the population — Jewish people included.
In the wake of Edwards’s actions, I presumed the University and the athletic department would follow a similar course of action.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The closest it got to a satisfactory response was a tweet from Michigan President Santa Ono, but Ono’s words felt hollow amid the backdrop.
And so, while Edwards’ initial retweet — and his amplification of dangerous rhetoric — caused a dull pain, his preceding actions proved sharper.
“The retweet was a glitch,” Edwards wrote Thursday morning, nearly 24 hours after the initial retweet.
Beyond the preposterous claim — one has to press multiple buttons to retweet something, making a “glitch” an unlikely occurrence — the rest of Edwards’ reply only hurt more. He failed to mention the harm he caused to the Jewish community, nor any notion of his apparent antisemitic thought.
Thursday evening, Edwards recognized his faults.
“This has been a learning experience for me,” Edwards wrote. “I wish and hope that we are able as a society to rise from oppression and not discriminate off race, religion or ethnicity but look beyond into each person’s heart and see who they truly are as a human being. One Love.”
When asked for comment, a team spokesperson said that Edwards’s tweets reflect what he wishes to share at this time. Below that second tweet, Edwards posted an additional statement:
“I would like to make it clear: I apologize for mistakenly retweeting a message that was so hurtful to so many especially those in the Jewish Community. As I stated earlier, I am unequivocally against racism, exploitation and oppression in all forms, including stereotyping and trafficking in hate. I have nothing but love for others and I never judge anyone based on race or religion.”
It’s not my place to inform you how to react to that response. Maybe you brushed Edwards’s comments aside at first glance. Maybe you’ve stopped rooting for him all together. Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
For transparency purposes, I am yet to forgive Edwards, believing that actions speak louder than words — particularly words that are delayed and contradict themselves. I’ll wait for after the season to even consider forgiveness. That’s when Edwards and his teammates will venture to the Holocaust Museum alongside Michigan regent Jordan Acker, who is Jewish, to learn “first hand where hate speech leads.”
That’s when Edwards will learn, and he has a lot to learn. That much is clear.
But so do all of us.
We live in a world where hate reigns supreme. Edwards’s actions are the latest episode in a disturbing increase of antisemitic rhetoric, discourse that begins with influential figures boasting powerful platforms; while antisemitic rhetoric always exists, such people bring it to the surface. Ye has unleashed an endless spew of antisemitic tropes. The Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving has established his support for “New World Order,” a disgusting antisemitic film predicated on conspiracy theories peddled by right-wing podcast host Alex Jones.
“History is not supposed to be hidden from anybody,” Irving said Saturday night in a shambolic press conference.
It’s not, and that’s a lesson we can apply now — just not in the context Irving envisions.
Artists and athletes, whether it be Ye or Edwards, have platforms. Their voices have an influence that many of us will never have. Take Ye, for instance. His actions spurred a series of banners draped over Los Angeles freeways declaring “Kanye was right,” a direct consequence of his words.
But other artists and athletes have influential platforms, too. None of Edwards’s teammates commented publicly on the matter — not that they should admonish Edwards, but to expose history, to make everyone aware of the harm that antisemitic rhetoric causes. Because platforms work both ways, and that’s something we all need to understand.
Everyone can be extra conscious of their actions, too. Performances — whether athletic or artistic — too often cloak the disturbing actions committed by the performers, allowing them to continue relatively unscathed.
That’s what I thought about Saturday afternoon, walking down Packard Street. One tailgate after the next blasted Ye’s music, ranging from “Flashing Lights” to “Monster,” popular pregame ballads.
I thought back to that point again in the press box, with Edwards drawing his first career start and notching 80 total yards, helping the Wolverines beat their in-state rivals. Each of his plays elicited cheers.
Perhaps a more conscious response would allow the story to remain top of mind. Each stream of a Ye song and each cheer for Edwards reinforces an unspoken notion: a notion that antisemitism and hate is OK and that their actions are acceptable.
Certainly, they are not any of those things. It is not okay to amplify antisemitic rhetoric at a time where hateful discourse is proliferating, or when it is not.
It’s time for us to learn that we have to act in a way that shows that.