NHL criticized for hiring anti-Israel anthem singer Kiana Ledé for all-star game in Toronto

During her performance Saturday, R&B singer Kiana Ledé wore a cardigan with a pattern similar to a keffiyeh, a symbolic Palestinian scarf

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The National Hockey League is facing public backlash after it invited R&B singer Kiana Ledé to perform the American national anthem at the all-star game in Toronto this weekend after she previously warned her fans, “if you’re a Zionist … feel free to stay your ass at home.”

On Saturday night, Ledé wore a cardigan with a pattern similar to a keffiyeh, a symbolic Palestinian scarf, during her performance. The Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) told National Post that Ledé’s presence undermined the event’s mission of bringing fans of all stripes together.

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“Sports are about inclusion and being the best version of ourselves. Her record of divisive and harmful statements that encourage hate against Jews and those who support Israel are the antithesis of these values,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the organization’s vice president overseeing the Greater Toronto Area. “Being given access to one of sports’ largest platforms may be interpreted as quiet approval of her views. Jews should feel safe and be able to enjoy the sport like anyone else, but she made it clear that our community was not welcome.”

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Shortly after her performance, CIJA released a public statement condemning the NHL for giving Ledé the “red carpet treatment.”

“After the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) banned #Israel from playing in international tournaments, the NHL stepped in and did the right thing to raise significant concerns with the policy,” the group said. “It’s unfortunate before giving her one of their largest platforms of the year that the NHL didn’t look into her more.”

2024 NHL All-Star game in Toronto.
The American national anthem was performed by Kiana Ledé during the game between Team Mackinnon and Team McDavid during the 2024 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 3 in Toronto, Ontario. Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Ledé first publicly commented on the conflict several days after Oct. 7, calling the Nova music festival massacre, “f–kin sad” in a statement posted to X. However, she clarified, “Hamas does not = Palestine. So while Joe (Biden) continues to uplift a government that is terrorizin an entire country I will do my best to share any information that I can in support of Palestine.”

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The following day, Ledé accused Israel of committing genocide. At least two Israeli fans were upset by Ledé’s comments on the heels of the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

“And to think that just last week I saw you live in NYC and enjoyed any moment of it and now you’re advocating Hamas,” one fan responded on X. “This is a disgrace.”

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Another addressed her personally: “Kiana, I respect you very much and urge you to read more on this. I believe you only have good intentions and I stand myself with the Palestinians everywhere. The messages out there are spreading like wildfire and it brings a lot of hate to Jewish community.”

Ledé subsequently called the Biden administration “animals” for supporting Israel after the Oct. 7 atrocities. “I am more than disgusted by the way @POTUS is doin just enough to pretend to ‘play both sides.’ He is evil. Everyone in our government standin by and givin money and military aid to Israel has such a lack of empathy, they are the animals. I am sick. Why,” Ledé posted to X on Oct. 19.

Neither the NHL nor Ledé responded to National Post’s requests for comment.

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During a concert in Melbourne in December, Ledé expressed her “support for the Palestinian resistance,” and argued that the hostilities are “not a war or a conflict” but a “mass murder.” Videos have also circulated of Ledé donning a keffiyeh and leading chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” to raucous applause from the audience.

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One concertgoer, Aviva Lefkovits, shared her dismay after attending one of Ledé’s recent performances in London.

“During one of the interludes between songs, when Kiana was interacting with the crowd, one fan threw something on stage into her hands. It was a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan: ‘Free Palestine.’ My stomach dropped,” Lefkovits she wrote in the Times of Israel in late January.

“Kiana lifted up the shirt and presented it proudly to the crowd, to rapturous cheers and applause. Her expression was one of pride and appreciation. She began to lead the crowd in the infamous, dreaded chant: ‘from the river to the sea/Palestine will be free,’ which was echoed by the entire audience at full volume.”

Lefkovits told National Post that she “felt extremely unsafe” during the chant.

“It felt like all of a sudden I was in a room full of people who hated me, and I’d had no idea up until that moment. I felt utterly alone. And the most upsetting part was that the concert was supposed to be a place where people from all walks of life could feel accepted and unified, and instead it turned into a political protest that completely alienated me from everyone else,” she said, adding that she was “disgusted” to later learn that Ledé had said people who are pro-Israel should stay home.

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“I never would have supported her or attended her concert if I knew she had expressed these sentiments. I’ve been completely unable to listen to her music anymore since the concert, and those words affirm just that decision.”

Lefkovits said Ledé should be ashamed of herself for spreading “dangerous misinformation.

“If I could tell her one thing it would be that she made a really loyal fan feel extremely distressed and scared,” Lefkovits said. “But it sounds like my feelings would be completely meaningless to her based on the above-mentioned comments, so I’d rather urge other Jews, Zionists and Israel supporters to stop following Kiana too, and be careful about who they’re supporting in general.”

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