Do you know how easy it is to say “I’m sorry!” or that you’re not antisemitic? Apparently, it was a tremendous challenge for Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. Everyone’s allowed to make mistakes, but hot damn, you’re not allowed to be that negligent with a public spotlight and not face consequences. Right after Kanye West’s antisemitic patterns were easily identified in October, Irving promoted a film and book engulfed with lies and easily disproved claims about the Jewish people. After it was brought to his attention, Irving doubled, tripled and quadrupled down on his belief that he did no wrong, a thought from the former Duke star not based in reality.
Let’s set up a clear timeline for those unaware. Irving posted the falsehood-ridden project to his social media on a Friday, which was immediately condemned by Nets’ owner Joe Tsai. Plenty of outside noise called for the NBA to suspend Irving before he was able to speak on it publicly. The NBA doesn’t have a policy or precedent for suspending players for incendiary comments. In September, the league didn’t suspend Minnesota Timberwolves’ forward Anthony Edwards when he used an anti-gay slur on a video game live stream. Precedent set up individual teams to punish its players for hate speech or discrimination, like the case of former Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard, who used an antisemitic slur, also on a video game live stream. Why is Twitch a safe haven for that? Leonard was suspended by his team indefinitely first, then given a one-week ban from the NBA before being ultimately traded to Oklahoma City. He never played a game for the Thunder and was released.
Irving had multiple chances to apologize. At a Saturday postgame press conference the day after the post, which was deleted within 48 hours? Nope, and instead, he attacked the reporter who asked the question about the antisemitic film. After Irving was given another chance to speak out on the situation during a media session the following Thursday, he did a lot of talking without “I’m sorry” or “I have no antisemitic beliefs” coming out of his mouth. This was after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, condemned his behavior and the Anti-Defamation League said they’d partner with the Nets and Irving to donate $1 million to charities that help fight antisemitism. The ADL, whose mission is to stop the mistreatment of Jewish people and provide equal treatment for all, found 2,717 antisemitism events in 2021, a 34 percent increase from 2020. That averages to more than seven such incidents per day. Multiple NBA figureheads and media personalities called for his suspension after Saturday’s incident. After Thursday’s unquestionable signs of no regret, Tsai had no choice. And a long suspension was doled out until Irving proved he had learned from why his actions were so hurtful to the Jewish people and others.
Irving did “apologize” the night he was suspended by the Nets, but the sincerity of it still is questionable coming only after his paycheck was taken away for weeks. If someone is forced to apologize, are they truly sorry? I can’t say definitively evidenced by his misspelling of antisemitism in his post-suspension attempt at damage control. Not acknowledging a huge platform you have because you’re famous is downright negligent. Don’t believe me when it comes to the Jewish people? Then explain to me the credible broad threat to New Jersey synagogues reported on the day Irving’s suspension began by the Newark chapter of the FBI.
Irving’s laziness surrounding the coronavirus vaccine didn’t land him in hot water, but it did make him look like an idiot. Combined with his social-media post making the antisemitic book and film skyrocket up Amazon’s bestseller lists for weeks, and then denying you were involved, is beyond idiotic, when the receipts are easily available public information. Let’s hope no one in the NBA relapses and influences more hate against the Jewish people.