Two additional lights will be inside the stadium when the New York Giants and Washington Commanders square off on “Sunday Night Football” this weekend.
For the first time, a menorah will be lit during the National Football League’s championship game on Sunday, the first night of Hanukkah.
The lighting will occur after the game’s opening in Washington, DC, and is sponsored by Chabad of Maryland and CTeen International, the teen network of Chabad.
It will be shown on the jumbotrons at FedExField; it’s unclear if the NBC coverage will offer the illumination on screen.
In addition to local rabbis leading a menorah parade and tailgate party outside the stadium, they will distribute menorahs, latkes, sufganiyot, or Hanukkah doughnuts to Jewish supporters, Chabad claims that East Coast branches of the adolescent movement will attend the game.
“The first public menorah lighting during the prime-time game spreads Hanukkah’s light at a time when popular culture is reeling from antisemitism,” Chabad said in a statement to the Jerusalem Post.
“Eighty thousand fans watched from the stands, and upwards of eighteen million tuned in from home.”
“Sunday Night Football” has held primetime’s top spot for 11 years, according to NBC data, averaging 19.3 million viewers in 2021. Just east of Washington, D.C., FedExField has 82,000 seats for spectators.
The opportunity to spread the joy and light of Hanukkah is genuinely exceptional, said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky of CTeen International to the Post.
The public display occurs when anti-Semitism rises, especially in the sporting community.
While the antisemitism controversy surrounding Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving dominated headlines for much of the autumn, an Australian Jewish adolescent recruited into the nation’s top football league last month was met with online abuse.
There are very few Jewish players in the entire league, and neither the Giants nor the Commanders have any.
The owner of the Washington team, Dan Snyder, is Jewish and a member of the Greater Washington Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Snyder is currently the subject of numerous investigations over alleged financial and sexual wrongdoing inside his business.
He’s thinking about letting the franchise go.
Despite not being Jewish, Giants president and co-owner John Mara has previously voiced displeasure when his team’s schedule conflicts with Jewish festivals.
When the Giants played on Rosh Hashanah earlier this season, the team’s co-owner and chairman Steve Mara expressed his unhappiness, saying, “We have always requested the league take the Jewish High Holy Days into consideration when designing our schedule.”
The Giants and Commanders are currently deadlocked in the standings, and both are competing for a postseason position, so this weekend’s matchup has added significance off the field.