On the night of June 29, two months after he was drafted by the Jets, Oday Aboushi stood before more than 700 people at the El Bireh Society convention in Arlington, Va., and discussed his journey to the N.F.L.
Aboushi shared what it was like growing up in Brooklyn and Staten Island as one of 10 children. He spoke about graduating from the University of Virginia in three and a half years. He discussed his 2009 visit to refugee camps in the West Bank, how that trip inspired him even more to succeed and to represent his community.
“It was the classic American success story,” said Sarab Al-Jijakli, the president of the Network of Arab-American Professionals, who was in the audience that night.
Aboushi’s appearance at the convention, a three-day gathering of Palestinian-Americans that was described by another attendee as a “cultural networking event,” produced an outcry from some online who charged Aboushi with being a Muslim extremist. An article on the Web site FrontPage Mag suggested that he had terrorist ties. A column on Yahoo Sports, since removed, said he held anti-Semitic views. An employee of MLB.com on Twitter compared Aboushi to Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end charged with murder, before later apologizing.
Waves of support for Aboushi started rolling in on Thursday, and on Friday, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning the attacks on his character and applauding him for taking pride in his culture. The Jets also backed Aboushi, an offensive lineman they selected in the fifth round.
In a statement, Aboushi said he was upset that his reputation had been tarnished by people who did not know him, but that he was proud of his Palestinian heritage and to have been born and raised in the United States.