Tiki Barber hasn't taken the football field yet in his comeback, but he's already taking hits for making an analogy to Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
The former New York Giants running back has been criticized in local media for making the analogy during an interview in this week's Sports Illustrated. At one point in the article, Barber describes going into hiding with his girlfriend after his well-publicized breakup with his then-pregnant wife. Barber and his girlfriend ended up in the attic of the home of the player's agent, Mark Lepselter.
"Lep's Jewish," Barber told Sports Illustrated. "And it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing."
Lepselter came to his client's defense Thursday.
"In a world where nothing surprises me, where things get completely blown out of proportion, this only adds to the list," Lepselter told ESPNNewYork.com. "[Tiki] was shedding light on going back to that time when he was literally trapped, so to speak, in my attic for a week. Nothing more, nothing less.
"Let me remind all those who want to make this more than it is: Tiki was a guest of [president] Shimon Peres in Israel five years ago."
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, described Barber's comment as "outrageous and perverse."
"Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience," Foxman said in a news release. "Tiki Barber's personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.
"The analogy to Anne Frank is not funny, it is outrageous and perverse. Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily. Before she perished at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she hid from the Nazis for more than two years, fearing every day for her life. The Frank family's experiences, as recorded in Anne's dairy, are a unique testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her life should never be debased or degraded by insensitive and offensive analogies."
Barber, 36, announced in March that he is making a comeback after retiring at the end of the 2006 NFL season. The Giants still own the rights to Barber, the team's all-time leading rusher with 10,449 yards. However, the team has said it will release him as soon as the NFL's labor situation is settled.
Barber retired to become a correspondent for NBC's "Today Show" and the network's "Sunday Night Football" telecast, and was critical of Giants quarterback Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin.
NBC did not renew Barber's contract last year. He recently did video work for Yahoo! Sports.