Nets guard Kyrie Irving continues to face backlash for posting a link on Twitter to an antisemitic film last month.
For every week after Irving posted the link to the film, he declined to apologize or say that he held no antisemitic beliefs, prompting the Nets on Nov. 3 to suspend him indefinitely. He has since apologized, however the fallout continues: On Nov. 4, Nike condemned hate and antisemitism, and suspended its relationship with Irving effective immediately.
In an interview with The Recent York Times on Nov. 10, N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said that he met with Irving in Recent York and didn’t imagine that he was antisemitic, but that “whether or not he’s antisemitic shouldn’t be relevant to the damage brought on by the posting of hateful content.”
The Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said in a post on Twitter on Nov. 10 that Irving should not be suspended. “Kyrie apologized and he should have the opportunity to play,” James said. “That’s what I believe. It’s that easy. Help him learn — but he must be playing.”
Irving, a seven-time N.B.A. All-Star, has been with the Nets since 2019. He won a championship with James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, but over the past few years Irving has often been discussed more for his off-court views. In a 2018 interview with The Recent York Times, he suggested that the Earth may be flat, and over the past 12 months he had refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Here’s what you could know.
What did Irving post on Twitter?
On Oct. 27, Irving tweeted a link to “Hebrew to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” a 2018 film driven by antisemitic tropes about Jewish people lying about their origins. Amongst its false and outlandish claims is the assertion that the Holocaust never happened.
Irving also made an Instagram post with a screenshot of the film’s rental page on Amazon, which he had linked to on Twitter. Neither post included a caption or comment from Irving.
The Instagram post was a part of a story, a format that expires after 24 hours; the tweet was deleted Oct. 30.
In a letter dated Nov. 4, the Anti-Defamation League and the Nets called on Amazon to take down or add explanatory context to the film and a related book, writing that they were “designed to inflame hatred and, now that it was popularized by Mr. Irving, will lead on to the harm of Jews.”
Antisemitism in America
Antisemitism is certainly one of the longest-standing types of prejudice, and those that monitor it say it’s now on the rise across the country.
When did the backlash start?
On Oct. 28, Rolling Stone magazine reported on a few of the film’s antisemitic messages. Many other news media outlets began reporting on the magazine article and Irving’s tweet.
That night, the Nets owner Joe Tsai posted in regards to the situation on Twitter, adding that it was “larger than basketball”:
“I’m upset that Kyrie appears to support a movie based on a book filled with anti-semitic disinformation. I would like to sit down down and be certain that he understands that is hurtful to all of us, and as a person of religion, it’s flawed to advertise hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.”
On Oct. 29, the N.B.A. released an announcement condemning hate speech, however it didn’t name Irving. On Nov. 1, the N.B.A. players’ union, the National Basketball Players Association, issued an announcement condemning antisemitism, but just like the N.B.A., it didn’t name Irving, who’s certainly one of the union’s vice presidents.
How did Irving respond?
Irving addressed his posts publicly for the primary time Oct. 29, after the Nets lost to the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. During a contentious news conference, Irving doubled down on his support of the film and an antigovernment conspiracy theory promoted by the Infowars host Alex Jones.
“History shouldn’t be purported to be hidden from anybody,” Irving said. He added: “I’m not going to face down on anything I think in. I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I actually have an entire army around me.”
Irving accused an ESPN reporter of attempting to “dehumanize” him as he and the reporter argued about whether Irving had “promoted” the film by posting about it.
The Nets played the Pacers again Oct. 31 at Barclays Center and faced the Bulls in Chicago on Nov. 1, however the team didn’t make Irving available to reporters after either game. General Manager Sean Marks said the team didn’t “wish to cause more fuss straight away, more interaction with people.” (The Nets, who’ve struggled on the court, also fired their head coach, Steve Nash, on Nov. 1, but Marks said the move was not related to Irving’s situation.)
On Nov. 2, Irving announced with the Anti-Defamation League that he would donate $500,000 to anti-hate causes. The Nets said they’d do the identical.
“I’m aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility,” Irving said in an announcement. “I don’t imagine all the things said within the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles.”
Why did the Nets suspend Irving?
By Nov. 3, Irving had not apologized, and he had not been clear about what content he disagreed with within the film. N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said he would meet with Irving.
“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a movie containing deeply offensive antisemitic material,” Silver said in an announcement. He added: “I’m upset that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained within the film he selected to publicize.”
About half-hour after Silver’s statement, Irving spoke to reporters at a Nets practice: “I didn’t mean to cause any harm. I’m not the one which made the documentary.”
When asked what specific points within the film he didn’t agree with, Irving responded vaguely. “A number of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community, needless to say,” he said. “Some points made in there that were unlucky.”
When Irving was asked if he had any antisemitic beliefs, he said he respected all walks of life. “I can’t be antisemitic if I do know where I come from,” Irving said when he was asked to reply the query with a “yes” or “no.”
Inside hours, the Nets suspended him for no less than five games, saying he was “unfit to be associated” with the team. “We were dismayed today, when given a chance in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material within the film,” the Nets said in an announcement. “This was not the primary time he had the chance — but failed — to make clear.
“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a transparent opportunity to achieve this is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team.”
Marks, the final manager, said Irving would wish to fulfill with Jewish leaders, undergo counseling and meet with the team, amongst other measures, before he can be allowed to return.
But some N.B.A. players could also be able to thrust back on Irving’s behalf.
“The terms for his return, they look like lots,” Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics told The Boston Globe on Nov. 7. He added: “A whole lot of the players expressed discomfort with the terms.”
Brown, like Irving, is certainly one of the vice presidents within the N.B.A. players’ union. He told The Globe that he was “expecting” the union to appeal the suspension, saying that Irving “made a mistake” but was not antisemitic.
“There’s an interesting distinction between what any person says verbally and what any person posts as a link on a platform with no description behind it,” he said.
What did Irving say in his apology?
Hours after he was suspended Nov. 3, Irving apologized in an Instagram post, saying he “had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate.”
“To All Jewish families and Communities which are hurt and affected from my post, I’m deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize.
I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, as an alternative of specializing in the healing strategy of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made within the Documentary.”
LeBron James, who played with Irving in Cleveland, has said Irving’s apology should allow him to be back on the court.
Why did Nike suspend ties Irving after he apologized?
Irving’s apology looked as if it would come too late for Nike, which suspended its relationship with him “effective immediately” on Nov. 4 and announced it might not launch his next signature sneaker, the Kyrie 8.
“At Nike, we imagine there isn’t any place for hate speech and we condemn any type of antisemitism,” the corporate said in an announcement. “We’re deeply saddened and upset by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
Nike had produced Irving’s popular signature sneaker line since 2014; his contract expires in October 2023. One marketing expert said brands have grow to be more conscious about their values lately.
Will Irving play for the Nets again?
The Nets said his suspension would last no less than five games, but he missed his sixth game Nov. 13 with no indications from the team of when he would return.
Marks, the final manager, said Irving’s apology was a “step in the appropriate direction” but “actually not enough.” It’s not clear if Irving will comply with meet with Jewish leaders or fulfill other mandates from the team.
On Nov. 13, in his first public comments for the reason that apology, Irving posted on Twitter: “I used to be not put here on earth to take part in any religious/political wars or incite racial disharmony/prejudice inside communities.”
Irving met with Silver on Nov. 8, and Tsai said that he and his wife, Clara Wu Tsai, met with Irving and his family Nov. 10.
“We spent quality time to grasp one another and it’s clear to me that Kyrie doesn’t have any beliefs of hate towards Jewish people or any group,” Tsai tweeted Nov. 11.
But the following day, Tsai told the Recent York Post that Irving had “work to do” before he could play again.
“He has to indicate folks that he’s sorry,” Tsai said. “What’s vital — and what people miss — is he only apologized after he was suspended.”
Some fans will not be able to welcome Irving back, if that point comes. Multiple million Jews live in Recent York City, and roughly 60 percent are in Brooklyn, where the Nets play at Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue.
Ben Berke, a Nets fan who lives in Astoria, Queens, told The Times that Irving’s apology was an “improvement.”
“But I don’t want him on the team anymore,” he said.
Marks said Nov. 4 that the Nets had not considered dropping Irving from the team.
Reporting was contributed by Julie Creswell, Jordyn Holman, Scott Cacciola, Troy Closson, Karen Weise