NBA’s Kyrie Irving Suspended After Refusing to Apologize for Promoting Anti-Semitic Film
Edited By: Fern Sidman
The Brooklyn Nets suspended Kyrie Irving without pay for “no less than five games” after he failed to adequately apologize for tweeting a link to a movie that contained anti-Semitic disinformation, as was reported by Fox News.
The announcement from the Nets came on Thursday night.
“Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing anti-Semitic hate. We believed that taking the path of education in this challenging situation would be the right one and thought that we had made progress with our joint commitment to eradicating hate and intolerance,” the team said in a statement.
“We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no anti-Semitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity – but failed – to clarify.
“Such failure to disavow anti-Semitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team. Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets. We have decided that Kyrie will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct and the suspension period served is no less than five games.”
Earlier on Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wanted an apology from Irving but the embattled player did not offer one.
Shortly after Silver said Irving “made a reckless decision” by tweeting out a link to a film containing anti-Semitic material last week, the Brooklyn Nets guard again stopped short of saying he was sorry for doing so, as was reported by the AP.
Irving said some things in “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” were untrue, but he didn’t say he shouldn’t have posted a link to it.
“I’m not the one who made the documentary,” Irving said after the Nets practiced on Thursday, according to the AP report.
Irving again said he meant no harm in posting the tweet — which he has since deleted — but didn’t apologize for doing so and instead asked reporters why they weren’t asking questions about the history of Blacks in America, saying 300 million of his ancestors are buried in the country.
“Where were you guys asking those same questions when I was a kid learning about the traumatic events of my familial history and what I’m proud to come from and proud to stand here,” Irving said, “and why when I repeat myself that I’m not going to stand down, it has nothing to do with dismissing any other race or group people.
“I’m just proud of my heritage and what we’ve been through and the fact that this has pinned me against the Jewish community and I’m here answering questions of whether or not I’m sorry or not about something I didn’t create and was something I shared, and I’m telling everybody I’m taking responsibility, than that’s where I sit,.” Irving said according to the AP report.
Silver’s comments were the second statement the league office has issued on the latest Irving controversy, and the first in which Irving was referenced by name.
Irving and the Nets announced Wednesday, in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, that each would be donating $500,000 to anti-hate causes. But Silver felt Irving needed to go further.
“While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize,” the commissioner said, as was reported by the AP.
Silver added that he will be meeting with Irving in person within the next week. The league’s first statement, clearly in reference to Irving’s tweet, said “hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion and respect.”
Silver’s comments and Irving’s reluctance to apologize came hours before the FBI said it had received credible information about a “broad” threat to synagogues in New Jersey, Irving’s home state.
The AP also reported that the National Basketball Players Association also put out a statement this week echoing the NBA’s original comments. The NBPA also did not mention Irving by name; Irving is a vice president of the union and a member of its executive committee.
Also offering critical comments about Kyrie Irving were NBA legends, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal .
In a reaction to the Irving’s social media posts promoting the anti-Semitic film, Barkley tweeted. “I think he should have been suspended.”
For his part, O’Neal tweeted that “I hurts me sometimes when we have to sit up here and talk about stuff that divides the game.”
Asked what in the film he disagreed with, Irving responded: “I think some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community for sure. Some points made in there that were unfortunate.”
During his first comments since a combative press conference Saturday in which he defended his right to post, Irving was asked specifically about his beliefs regarding the Holocaust, as was reported by the AP.
“Those falsehoods are unfortunate,” Irving said, referring to content in the film, the AP reported. “And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that. Never, ever have said it. It’s not come out of my mouth. I never tweeted it. I never liked anything like it. So the Holocaust in itself is an event that means something to a large group of people that suffered something that could have been avoided.”
He was finally asked if he had any anti-Semitic beliefs.
“I cannot be anti-Semitic if I know where I come from,” Irving said.
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, reacted to a video of Irving’s response to that question on Twitter by writing: “The answer to the question ‘Do you have any anti-Semitic beliefs’ is always “NO” without equivocation.
In a statement sent to the media on Wednesday the ADL stated: “The events of the past week have sparked many emotions within the Nets organization, our Brooklyn community, and the nation. The public discourse that followed has brought greater awareness to the challenges we face as a society when it comes to combating hate and hate speech. We are ready to take on this challenge and we recognize that this is a unique moment to make a lasting impact.
To promote education within our community, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets will each donate $500,000 toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities. The Nets and Kyrie Irving will work with ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), a nonprofit organization devoted to fighting anti-Semitism and all types of hate that undermine justice and fair treatment for every individual. This is an effort to develop educational programming that is inclusive and will comprehensively combat all forms of anti-Semitism and bigotry.
“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” said Kyrie Irving. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility. I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles. I am a human being learning from all walks of life and I intend to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. So from my family and I, we meant no harm to any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light.”
“There is no room for anti-Semitism, racism, false narratives or misguided attempts to create animosity and hate,” said Sam Zussman, Chief Executive Officer of BSE Global, parent company of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. “Now, more than ever, there is a pressing need to ensure education in these areas. We are putting our prior statements into practice because actions speak louder than words.”
“At a time when anti-Semitism has reached historic levels, we know the best way to fight the oldest hatred is to both confront it head-on and also to change hearts and minds. With this partnership, ADL will work with the Nets and Kyrie to open dialogue and increase understanding,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “At the same time, we will maintain our vigilance and call out the use of anti-Jewish stereotypes and tropes – whatever, whoever, or wherever the source – as we work toward a world without hate.”
As in past years, the Brooklyn Nets will continue to support and participate in Shine A Light, an ongoing initiative dedicated to spotlighting modern day anti-Semitism.
Additionally, to ensure a sustainable and meaningful impact in driving awareness and education on the important topics of hatred based on race, ethnicity, and religion, the Brooklyn Nets, New York Liberty and the teams’ affiliated organizations will host a series of community conversations at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, in partnership with ADL and other national civil rights organizations as well as local community associations.”
On Thursday, however, after the news was released that Irving refused to offer an apology, Greenblatt said, “At a time when anti-Semitism has reached historic levels, we know the best way to fight the oldest hatred is to both confront it head-on and also to change hearts and minds. We took @KyrieIrving at his word when he said he took responsibility, but today he did not make good on that promise. Kyrie clearly has a lot of work to do.”
The ADL is an organization dedicated to monitoring anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world.
Also weighing in on this hot button issue was the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Nassau County. In a statement sent to the media they said, “HMTC condemns Kyrie Irving for promoting the anti-Semitic film, Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America. We recognize that he eventually removed the tweet linking to the film, and that both the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA made statements condemning the spread of hate speech. However, before removing the link, Irving doubled down on his support of the film at a press conference. At this point, the damage has been done – Irving’s post was flooded with messages of support, further spreading false information to millions of his followers.
Further action is needed. We urge the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA to reprimand Irving, either by suspending him, insisting he visit a Holocaust museum, or another appropriate measure.
And we urge Irving to examine his actions and understand that his words and deeds have severe consequences. HMTC’s mission is to educate about the dangers of anti-Semitism, intolerance, racism, bullying, and all other manifestations of bigotry through the lessons of the Holocaust. The misinformation Irving is spreading is seen by his followers as truth, and it’s extremely dangerous. As this trend of spreading bias rhetoric continues, HMTC remains as committed as ever to ensuring diverse communities learn about the Holocaust as an example of what can result from spreading hatred and lies.
This problematic film about the Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) movement promotes anti-Semitic lies throughout. It claims that the Jewish people were players in the African slave trade, and control every facet of society, especially finance and media. Extremist sects of the movement like the one portrayed in the film also claim that Jews pray to Satan. These sects have a history of inciting violence. In 2019, individuals linked to the BHI movement murdered four people at a kosher market in Jersey City.
HMTC stands in opposition to these hate groups and asks the Brooklyn Nets and NBA to take a strong stand against individuals who promote such dangerous lies. We are always here to provide educational opportunities to those who want to know how anti-Semitic actions like this led to the Holocaust.”