A section of the NBA website allowing fans from around the world to vote for their favorite players to play in the upcoming All-Star game offered “Palestine – occupied territory” as an option for the voter to select as his or her country of residence.
Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev sent a strongly worded letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver demanding that he “immediately act” to change the listing.
“I view the inclusion of ‘Occupied Palestine’ in the list of countries appearing on your official website as legitimizing the division of the State of Israel and as gross and blatant interference, in contrast to the official position of the American administration and the declarations of President Donald Trump, who just recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Regev wrote in a letter to Silver last week asking that the reference on the website be changed.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely also sent a letter of protest to the NBA which read, in part: “This week, U.S. Ambassador Friedman called for the cessation of the use of the term ‘occupied’ in regard to Judea and Samaria, and an important sports league such as the NBA should respect this view.” Judea and Samaria is the Hebrew term referring to the West Bank.
The NBA responded that the country list was provided by a third party, and that as soon as it was aware of the controversy it made the appropriate change. The NBA also apologized.
“We apologize for the errant listing. We do not produce the country listings for NBA.com and as soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated,” NBA spokesman Michael Bass said.
The website now offers “Palestinian territories” as an option.
Regev praised Silver for his quick response, saying in a statement that he has “proven his integrity and decency.”
She met with Silver in July, when they arranged for a delegation of NBA starts to come to Israel in April 2018 as part of Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations.