The representation of Jews in pro sports has lagged, at least compared to other industries. However, there are a number of standouts in the football world that we wanted to highlight.
Miami, after all, has a long history in football. Both the Dolphins (NFL) and University of Miami (NCAA) have a storied past not only in South Beach, but the country as whole. So without further ado, let’s showcase who in football circles is making the Jewish community most proud these days:
We have to start with one of Miami’s most-recognizable names — Steve Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins. While not originally from the area (Ross grew up in Michigan), he’s become an adopted son since buying the NFL team in 2008. No, he hasn’t led the Phins to a Super Bowl in that span (nor are there respectable NFL betting odds he’ll do it in 2021), but he’s added value elsewhere for Miami.
Perhaps Ross’ biggest contribution to the city is re-modeling Hard Rock Stadium. Ross used $400 million of his own money — with no public funding from Miami taxpayers — to upgrade the aging stadium. His big investment made the stadium THE place to be, not only for Dolphins games, but for Super Bowls and world-renown concerts.
In the past, Ross was the recipient of the Henry Pearce Award from the Jewish Association of Services for the Aged. He’s also used much of his $7.6 billion wealth to create non-profits like the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) or donate to his alma mater, Michigan.
Outside of Ross, there’s several other Jews that own and run NFL teams. There’s Arthur Blank (Falcons), Mark Davis (Raiders), Dan Snyder (Washington), Zygi Wif (Vikings), but no owner — Jew or not — has been as successful as the Patriot’s Bob Kraft.
Kraft built the blueprint for a Super Bowl-winning franchise in New England, with help of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, of course. The trio won six Super Bowls together. All in all since Kraft acquired the team in 1994, the Pats have played in 11 championship games, an NFL high during that time frame.
In terms of Jewish causes, Kraft has also been a true influential force. He’s continuously pledged money toward Israel, including the American Football Israel governing body and the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem. These efforts earned Kraft the Genesis Prize (aka the “Jewish Nobel Prize”) in 2019.
Sticking with the Patriots, Edelman is one of about a dozen Jewish players currently on an NFL roster. He’s also the most accomplished of the bunch. Over his 11-year career, Edelman has racked in 620 catches for almost 7,000 yards and 36 touchdowns. Most notably, Edelman was named Super Bowl MVP in 2019.
Edelman was especially vocal after NFL pass-catcher peer, Desean Jackson, made anti-semantic remarks (inaccurately quoting Adolf Hitler, no less) last year. After the incident, Edelman said, “anti-semitism is one of the oldest forms of hatred. It’s rooted in ignorance and fear…there’s no room for anti-semitism in this world.”
Marpet has long been a barrier-breaker in football. He was the highest-ever Division III player picked in the NFL Draft when Tampa used a second-round choice on him in 2015. Since then, he’s been a perpetual starter on the offensive line and named team captain on two separate occasions.
Marpet is an alumnus of Birthright Israel, which he went to in 2014. Of the 10-day voyage, Marpet said it gave him a greater appreciation for religion. Heck, he even rode a camel at one point. Miraculously, the camel didn’t buckle from his 400 or so pounds at the time.
We’ve highlighted Jewish NFL owners and players, but it’s only right to end with a head coach. Tresman was the Chicago Bears head man during the 2013 and 2014 season. Since then, he’s had head coach stints at the CFL (two years with the Toronto Argonauts) and the now-defunct XFL (Tampa Vipers).
So as you can see, the Jewish community isn’t necessarily highly represented in football, but it is proudly represented. Between the above five names, you have true difference-makers in the sport.