Oday Aboushi, the New York Jets rookie offensive lineman and one of the few Palestinian-Americans to play in the NFL, has had to defended himself against a website's article that called him a "Muslim extremist".
Aboushi was angered by the story, published on Tuesday by FrontPage Magazine, as well other comments in response to the piece.
"I'm proud to be born and raised in the United States, proud to be a Palestinian-American and as a native New Yorker, I'm especially proud to have been drafted by the Jets and have the chance to represent this great organisation and the NFL," he said in a statement issued by the team.
"It is upsetting to see people try to tarnish my reputation without even knowing me. But I appreciate all the support I have been getting from people of all backgrounds across the city and country."
The Brooklyn-born Aboushi, who now lives in Staten Island, was drafted in the fifth round by the Jets out of the University of Virginia.
He is one of just a small handful of Palestinian-American players to enter the NFL, including former linebacker Tarek Saleh, former quarterback Gibran Hamdan, and former defensive lineman Nader Abdallah.
Aboushi said that being a Palestinian-American in the NFL was "an honour" and added that for being able to "kind of break that mould and sort of open the door for other people and show them that it is possible, it's a great feeling."
The story by FrontPage Magazine said Aboushi's "latest infraction" came this past month when he was in Virginia and "gave a speech at a radical Muslim conference sponsored by a group denying Israel's right to exist and associated with blatantly anti-Semitic and terrorist propaganda".
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement in Aboushi's defence, saying "there's a lot of exaggeration and hyperbole in all the talk about" the player.
"Absolutely nothing in the public record suggests Aboushi is anything other than a young American athlete who takes pride in his Palestinian heritage," said Abraham H Foxman, the ADL director.
"There is nothing wrong with someone being proud of their ethnic or religious background, and this should be true regardless of one's chosen profession.
"Even if one disagrees with the agenda of the groups whose events he has attended, it is unfair and farfetched to cite those as evidence that he is an extremist.
"His participation in a conference organised by the El-Bireh Society, a Palestinian community organisation that was until recently defunct, should not be used to tar him as an extremist."
Foxman added that being pro-Palestinian "does not mean you're an anti-Semite or an extremist ... The record simply does not show that Aboushi has crossed that line."
The Jets, in a statement, said they "strongly believe in diversity, inclusion and tolerance of others."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE