Unless Kyrie Irving apologizes, it’s time for the Nets, the NBA to suffer the consequences

Unless Kyrie Irving apologizes, it’s time for the Nets, the NBA to suffer the consequences

A movie that Kyrie Irving publicly promoted last weekend and then doubled down on Saturday night is so virulently and unapologetically anti-Semitic that polished statement from the NBA and tweet from Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai do not approach the seriousness of the situation.

Especially not now.

Whether he intended it or not, Irving’s tacit endorsement of “Hebrews to Blacks: Awake Black America”—a film suggesting that modern Jews stole the religion and identity of the original Israelites, leading to the enslavement of Africans brought to America—is a grenade thrown directly into the air. of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews that have been simmering across the country lately, most notoriously and shamelessly spearheaded by hip-hop artist Kanye West.

And if Irving isn’t going to apologize for his cavalier “I’m just asking questions” routine or withdraw his support for the movie, then it’s time for the Nets to retire their spot on their basketball team.

After Kyrie Irving posted a link to an anti-Semitic video, the NBA released a statement saying:

After Kyrie Irving posted a link to an anti-Semitic video, the NBA released a statement saying “hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and goes against the NBA’s values ​​of equality, inclusion and respect.”

MORE: Kyrie Irving: ‘anti-Semitic’ label not justified, means no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs

NETS ANSWER: ‘Disappointed’ owner Irving promotes work ‘full of anti-Semitic disinformation’

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I don’t say that lightly or without deep consideration of what it means. My first instinct when this controversy started on Saturday was to put it in the same category of Irving’s stupidity that has fueled other high-profile missteps such as supporting flat earth theories and refuse the vaccine against COVID-19 even though he was legally mandated to play games in New York for most of last season.

As stupid as they were, those attitudes were nothing but destructive to his reputation and the Nets’ chances of winning games. And Irving is entitled to free speech and a range of beliefs, no matter how wacky or ill-informed. That’s potentially shaky territory for the NBA or the Nets to get involved in given that he didn’t directly say anything anti-Semitic.

But then I watched Irving’s press conference after the Nets game on Saturday night and the heated exchange he had with reporters. Then I watched the film he was promoting – all three-plus hours of it – and came away with a different feeling about the threshold Irving crossed here.

First, a disclaimer. I am Jewish, and the current climate in this country is terrifying in ways I have never experienced before. The introduction of blatant anti-Semitism whether led by a celebrity with a large devoted following or streamed across the lighted sign in Jacksonville during the Florida-Georgia game is harmful and disturbing.

And what Irving let loose on Saturday is dangerous. If he doesn’t understand that, can’t admit it and figure out how to make up for it, then his time in the NBA needs to come to an end.

Here’s what Irving said Saturday night: “My answer would be not to educate yourself about what is Semitism and what is anti-Semitism, but about learning the root words where they come from and understanding that this is an African heritage that also belongs to the people. Africa is in it, whether we want to reject it or not. So that claims about anti-Semitism and who are the chosen people of God and we enter into these religious conversations and that is a big no-no.

“I don’t live my life that way. I grew up in a melting pot of all races, white, black, red, yellow, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and you see how I live my life now. I’m not. I’m in a unique position to have a certain level of influence to my community and what I post doesn’t mean I support everything that is said or done or stand for anything. what I do is post things for my people in my community and those who will actually be affected by it. Anyone who has criticism , was clearly not intended for them.”

Not only is it a cop-out, but it makes me wonder if Irving even saw the movie he promoted or addressed the blatant anti-Semitic tropes it contained. I’d like to give Irving the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t hate Jews, but much of the material in the film is drawn directly from false narratives and easily debunked theories promoted by people like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for decades to fuel anti-Jewish resentment in some black communities.

At one point, the film even quotes an alleged quote from Adolf Hitler – which, by the way, is definitely false – that “the white Jews know that the blacks are the true children of Israel and to keep America’s secret, the Jews will be blackmailed by America. They will extort America, their plan for world domination will not succeed if the Negroes know who they are.”

It refers to the writings of Henry Ford, who was perhaps America’s most notorious anti-Semite. And he cites twice an essay called “Hidden Tyranny,” first published in 1978 as Harold Wallace Rosenthal’s supposed confession of how Jews conspired to control the world through banking and the media.

The problem, of course, is that Rosenthal, a 28-year-old congressional aide, had been killed two years earlier in a terrorist attack in Turkey and would be an odd choice to reveal the great secret that an entire religion is hiding. The Anti-Defamation League called the interview a complete fabrication.

Woven with all sorts of anthropological language and DNA tracing and biblical folklore, much of the film focuses on diasporas and how the ancient populations of the Middle East and North Africa did not look like the white or European people who represent most of the world. The Jewish population today. This is almost certainly true in the broadest sense and would not be problematic if that were all.

But it comes with a solid twist, unmistakably blaming Jews for the history of hardships suffered by Black Americans.

“Satan knows that if he can hide the true identity of the ancient Egyptians and the sons of Ham, he can prevent the true Israelites from awakening to their true identity,” the film’s narrator states. “So how has this master mind deception continued for so long? It’s easy. The powers that be simply have to present other people to the world to be Egyptians and Bible Isrealists using mass media or western education. Mass media has whitewashed the true black identity of the ancient Egyptians for centuries.”

And this: “Little did we know that the three Abrahamic religions that shaped the world were the same religions that enslaved the so-called black man. Perhaps this is why the true Israeli identity of the so-called black man is so obscured. The mass media is the greatest tool of indoctrination, brainwashing and propaganda that the world has ever seen. For centuries they have helped Satan deceive the world, including the Christian church.”

It’s trash, it’s hateful, and it’s divisive between two minority groups that have largely enjoyed a productive and positive alliance in modern America. But it’s not surprising that alarm bells didn’t ring for Irving, who a few weeks before this controversy endorsed Alex Jones’ diatribe about the “New World Order,” another conspiracy theory rooted in the idea that Jews secretly control the world.

“It’s true,” Irving said Saturday when asked about the tweet, while saying he didn’t endorse Jones’ other ridiculous theories.

In typical Irving fashion, he talks out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he says that all this is not a big deal because the media is making up the extent of his influence. But at the same press conference he said he was in a unique position of influence and announced about the film to his 4.6 million Twitter followers because “history should not be hidden from anyone”.

The cumulative effect of all of this is that Irving is trying to get out of the NBA, one embarrassing tweet at a time. Maybe it will end with the business of the league taking its course. Irving is a free agent after this season, and despite his still immense ability, it’s hard to imagine any team shelling out significant money for a player this problematic. Even with the current issue, the Nets are now the third straight franchise that Irving has left mired in dysfunction without nearly enough of an impact on winning to show for it.

But the NBA cannot be a league that champions inclusion and diversity while having one of its most prominent stars promote virulent anti-Jewish rhetoric at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise. It’s not just bad business, it’s wrong and dangerous.

The Statement by the NBA on Saturday condemned anti-Semitism, but didn’t even name Irving or address what the entire sports world was talking about. And Tsai’s tweet that he’s “disappointed” in Irving doesn’t account for the fact that he’s 30 years old, considers himself enlightened, and has supposedly thought about these ideas enough to embed them in his belief system. Irving is, of course, a fake, who has shown that his understanding of many of the topics he talks about is drawn from YouTube University. But this is not the thing he ran into. He asks for it.

If Irving isn’t going to answer for it or explain it better than he did Saturday night when his arrogance and defensiveness were on full display, the NBA and the Nets need to start increasing the consequences. If he’s so willing to demean the NBA and drag it into America’s anti-Semitic frenzy over a poorly made film full of lies and hate, it’s time for him to take a much tougher line.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The NBA must address Kyrie Irving’s support of an anti-Semitic movie

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