Kyrie Irving’s ties to anti-Semitism horrify his many Jewish fans

Kyrie Irving’s ties to anti-Semitism horrify his many Jewish fans

Before last season, the point guard refused to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and played in just 29 of 82 regular-season games, missing many due to New York City. mandate requiring vaccination of all private sector employees in the city, which is why he could not compete in the Barclays Center.

But many fans said his prowess as one of the league’s most talented backs overshadowed his off-field controversy: When he played his first home game in March after more than nine months out, the audience broke the attendance record at a Nets gameand Mr. Irving received the loudest cheers when the starting lineups were announced.

But patience for his behavior wore thin this week, following his comments and what many fans saw as a slow and half-hearted attempt to bring them back. After facing backlash for posting a link to the 2018 documentary Hebrews to Blacks: Black America Awakens, which represents several anti-Semitic formssaid Mr. Irving in a statement six days later: “I am aware of the negative impact of my position on the Jewish community and take responsibility.”

But he did not apologize directly, disappointing many fans. The feeling intensified the next day, as reporters questioned him for six minutes after Nets practice and asked him to answer “yes” or “no” about whether he held anti-Semitic beliefs. Mr Irving said he respected all walks of life, adding “I can’t be anti-Semitic if I know where I come from.”

Jeffrey S. Gurock, a professor of Jewish history and former assistant basketball coach at Yeshiva University, said the incident was particularly disturbing because basketball has historically been more accepting. Jews from other sports. Mr. Irving’s comments represent “a bit of an invasion of what is a safe space for Jews in American culture,” he said.

On social networks, many supporters of Mr. Irving claimed that the intense reaction against him and other black celebrities who recently made anti-Semitic comments and is himself racist. “There’s this idea: Why are they ganging up against him?” said Maayan Zik, a black Jewish organizer. “Yeah, when there’s racism, nobody talks like this.”

But Ms. Zik, 38, who focuses on racial equality in Brooklyn’s Orthodox communities, said “it goes back to education.” For example, many people don’t recognize anti-Semitism as well as signs of racism, she said.

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