Kyrie Irving is an NBA player who stepped out of his lane on Thursday and tweeted a link to a movie called “Hebrews to Negroes” that critics claim is anti-semitic. The film, along with the book it is based on, purports to show that blacks are the “real children of Israel.”
Well, things didn’t go well for Kyrie after he tweeted out the link. He was repeatedly pressed to apologize, but refused to do so because he thought he hadn’t done anything wrong, and then was suspended for five games, with his team and the NBA attacking him.
What really did Kyrie in was that, after posting the tweet, he was quickly attacked and forced to speak on the issue. That he did in a press conference, but he refused to apologize in it. In fact, he stood up for his ideas and refused to say that he wasn’t anti-semitic. Instead, he argued that it was impossible for him to be anti-semitic because of his people’s history, implying that he subscribes to some version of the Black Hebrew Israelite idea that blacks are the real Hebrews. In his words:
“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”
Irving also said, when pressed about the tweet:
“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, then that’s where I sit.”
That didn’t go over well. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was furious with the response and attacked Kyrie for it, saying, on Twitter: “The answer to the question ‘Do you have any antisemitic beliefs’ is always “NO” without equivocation.”
Greenblatt also announced that the ADL would not be accepting Kyrie’s donation to it because of his comments.
The Nets, Kyrie’s team, went after him as well, suspending him for a few games. The team announced it was taking action against him in a statement, saying:
“We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic 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 antisemitism 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.”
Irving, unlike Kanye, later bent the knee and apologized. He did so in an Instagram post, saying:
“To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize. I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti- semticism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the Documentary I agreed with and disagreed with. I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate. I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all.”
He also, in that post, changed his tune on anti-semitism, saying that the movie “contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion, and I take full accountability and responsibly for my actions.”
NBA Commissioner Silver also jumped on the anti-Kyrie bandwagon, saying:
“While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism 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.”
Kanye West went on a Twitter posting spree on Irving’s behalf, first posting an image of the NBA player: