The number of NBA executives, current and former players denying Kyrie Irving is antisemitic is beginning to grow.
It’s been two weeks since the Brooklyn Nets guard began receiving immense backlash for posting a link to the film “Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which many have deemed as antisemitic.
Irving’s failure to condemn the film and emphatically say “no” when reporters asked if he was antisemitic resulted in an indefinite suspension from the Brooklyn Nets and the loss of his Nike endorsement deal.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, and Jaylen Brown, the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, are among those who have gone on record saying they didn’t believe Irving was antisemitic.
Brown made his declaration about Irving to the Boston Globe earlier this week and said the NBPA would likely appeal the Nets’ point guard’s suspension.
“I don’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic. I don’t think people in our governing bodies think he’s antisemitic. He made a mistake,” Brown told the Globe. “We understand from an outside perspective how important sensitivity is to not condone hate speech and not condone anything of that nature. It’s sensitivity to the dialect around that. We don’t want to stand up for somebody in order to not condemn hate speech, but I don’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic. And hopefully the NBA feels the same way.”
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“But I’m expecting the NBPA to appeal the suspension from Brooklyn,” Brown continued. “The terms, etc., that went into his return. The terms for his return, they seem like a lot, and a lot of the players expressed discomfort with the terms.”
Silver agreed with Brown’s sentiment about Irving not being antisemitic after meeting with him.
“We had a direct and candid conversation,” Silver told The New York Times. “He’s someone I’ve known for a decade, and I’ve never heard an antisemitic word from him or, frankly, hate directed at any group.”
However, Silver added, “Whether or not he is antisemitic is not relevant to the damage caused by the posting of hateful content.”
The controversy began when Irving posted an Amazon link to the documentary “Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” The film claims Black people are the true Israelites by ethnicity.
The backlash to Irving’s post was immediate and immense, with many calling on him to condemn the movie and apologize. When Irving didn’t respond as expected, the Nets suspended him and Nike dropped him.
Many Black Americans were highly upset at the treatment Irving received. They believe he is a victim of modern-day “buck breaking,” which is said to have been a practice designed to emasculate enslaved Black men and keep them in line by beating and sexually assaulting them in front of other enslaved people.
As a result, many of Irving’s supporters called for a boycott of the NBA, Nets and Nike.
Former Chicago Bulls player Jay Williams also spoke out recently in support of Irving from the perspective of “a Black male in this world” that deems the demands being placed on Irving before he can return to the court as excessive.
“When I hear what Kyrie Irving has to go through in order to be reinstated, I’m appalled,” Williams said in a video he posted to social media. “And let me give you examples about how I feel like we don’t have the same energy and hold other people who have dealt with racial tropes accountable.”
Williams then proceeded to list examples of Jewish and white celebrities, including Sara Silverman and Howard Stern, who were not asked for the same level of accountability after dressing in blackface and calling Black people nigg*rs.
“What we feel like has happened with Kyrie is even after an apology, it’s not enough. We feel like there needs to be more and a lot of people I’ve spoken to the last couple of days talk about buck breaking,” Williams continued. “We should hold everybody accountable. … but we don’t keep the same energy for everybody. We pick and choose what conversational points we want to make more polarizing. Is Kyrie Irving antisemitic? Hell no!”
Even LeBron James, who said Irving’s actions were harmful, said the requirements from the Nets were too much in two tweets.
“I told you guys that I don’t believe in sharing hurtful information. And I’ll continue to be that way but Kyrie apologized and he should be able to play,” James tweeted. “That’s what I think. It’s that simple. Help him learn- but he should be playing. What he’s asked to do to get back on the floor I think is excessive IMO. He’s not the person that’s being portrayed of him. Anyways back to my rehab session.
Ronald Dalton Jr., the ‘Hebrews To Negroes’ filmmaker, released a statement condemning the backlash Irving has received. He also added that he “vehemently” rejects any hate speech, but said he won’t apologize.
“I’m not apologizing for nothing because i can’t be Anti-Semitic because i’m an Israelite (Shemite). Still waiting for a debate with the Top Rabbis to prove who is a Israelite by blood & who can rightfully use the word ‘Anti-Semitic,’ Dalton tweeted.
PHOTO: Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. The Nets suspended Kyrie Irving for at least five games without pay Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, dismayed by his repeated failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.”(AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)