As hate crimes and mass shootings occur frequently in the United States, the “Red Table Talk” featuring Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter, Willow, and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, has assembled a special group of leading voices to reveal the roots of hatred and extreme violence.
One of those voices was former Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner, who spoke about how he became an ally to the Jewish community after then-Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson released a series of posts anti-Semites on Instagram in July 2020. Banner condemned Jackson’s actions. in a video posted on Twitter which went viral.
“When a co-worker is wrong, you have to hold them accountable,” Banner said during the Red Table Talk. “I think everyone in their workplace should have that kind of mentality, especially when talking about these tough topics. I saw a tweet about antisemitic comments, and I had to look up what antisemitism was. And I think it’s important to be able to tell the difference between different hatreds. Different hatreds we face as black and brown people. Different hatreds that Muslims have to face. Jews, I didn’t even think I could say Jewish because every time you hear it, it’s in a negative connotation. It is also important to understand that not all Jews are white and light-skinned. There are black Jews. And taking that time to do that minimal amount of research and speaking out and saying that’s obviously not okay, we can’t do that.
Honored to be part of this powerful conversation. Watch it now!! https://t.co/VKcYlzI2s6
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) June 16, 2022
Banner also referred to the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018 that left 11 people dead.
“In 2018, in Pittsburgh, someone walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue and said, ‘All Jews must die’ and shot over 10 people dead,” Banner said. “These little Jewish boys and girls cried the same tears I did in second grade when I read that the Klan had bombed the church in Birmingham and killed those four little black girls. You talked about empathy earlier. It’s surprising when people aren’t empathetic and how hard it is to create empathy in people, especially as an adult, but it’s also important to understand that I educated myself. The Jews welcomed me into their homes for their Shabbat dinners and into their Temple.
Pinkett Smith then asked Jeff Schoep, a reformed leader of the largest neo-Nazi group for 27 years, who in his organization thought Jews should be primarily targeted.
“The belief in this type of environment is that (Jews) control all the banks, they control all the media. It’s not based on reality, but it’s the old stereotypes,” Schoep said. “It’s easier to put the blame on someone else than to acknowledge it, and you know what, ‘I have to work harder, I have to try harder.’ It’s easier to just say, “It’s black people’s fault, it’s Jewish people’s fault, it’s Hispanic people’s fault. That’s not accurate. It’s not true, but it’s easier for them.
Banner says one of the best ways to end the cycle of hate is to “break the bread” and naturally welcome people who disagree with you.
“There was a time in my life when I couldn’t have sat down to dinner with you,” Banner told Schoep. “That old man (Schoep) made me cringe, because I don’t see how you would want to exterminate someone.”
After being active for just seven games and making no starts in 2021 due to complications from recovering from an ACL injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season, Banner was released by the Steelers in March. and is currently a free agent. Banner tweeted on May 24 that his leg is “better” and that he is beginning to “find happiness again”.
Former Steeler Zach Banner sends heartfelt farewell message to Pittsburgh