Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, isn’t exactly known for his interest in sports. But the owner of one of the largest private collections of art has, along with the World Jewish Congress, entered a partnership with the Chelsea Football Club, one of the perennial powerhouse teams in the English Premier League.
The project speaks to another passion of Lauder’s — fighting anti-Semitism — which is why he’s launching the new partnership, cleverly called Red Card for Hate. (A red card is the most severe penalty in soccer, which results in the player’s ejection from the game.)
The partnership is aimed at combating anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination in the sports world through education, meetings with Holocaust survivors, and a special forum to devise best practices to solving this thorny problem.
The program was kicked off at a recent event at Ronald Lauder’s Upper East Side home with dozens of UN officials and foreign diplomats in attendance. “I hope we have as much success fighting anti-Semitism as we do on the pitch (soccer field),” said Eugene Tenenbaum, director of the Chelsea Football Club. He presented Lauder with a jersey with his name on the back, to which Lauder quipped, “What is this?”
Lauder spoke of the scale of sports, and the scale at which a sports initiative could reach fans worldwide. “Anti-Semitism on campuses and throughout the world is seen by a few people,” said Lauder. “Sports events are not seen by millions, they’re seen by billions.”
“Nobody would imagine, not only in Europe but worldwide, that 75 years after the Holocaust we would even have to deal with this issue, but this is the reality that we are facing,” said Robert Singer, CEO and executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress. “Unfortunately, we have to face it, and one of the places we have to face it is on the pitch.” (Over the years, European soccer stadiums have sometimes been the site of racism and anti-Semitism.)
The first stage of the program, called “Pitch for Hope,” included a call for proposals for projects to “harness the spirit of camaraderie in sports to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, faiths and walks of life,” and was sent out in July. The three winning proposals, one in the U.S., one in the U.K. and one in Israel, will be announcedthis month. Each proposal team will receive $10,000 to develop the pilot project.
The second stage of the program will include a series of videos meant to raise awareness of the effects of anti-Semitism and discrimination. The videos will be rolled out during the 2018-19 football season at games and on social media. The third stage of the program will be a forum bringing together football associations and clubs and government officials to work on creating an atmosphere of tolerance and collaboration in the sports world.