Kyrie Irving may be defined by a lot of different things. But there are very few things that have the same kind of influence, both on and off the court, as his complete lack of accountability and self-examination.
Even before the Brooklyn Nets star posted an antisemitic documentary to his 4.6 million Twitter followers on Thursday, or after he played the victim at a post-game press conference on Saturday night during which he should have simply said, “I was wrong,” this has been true in the past in a variety of different ways.
There are a lot of incidents from the past that show how Kyrie Irving’s self-regard has trumped the realities and the people around him: Leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers team captained by LeBron James, and then, a few years later, casting doubt on LeBron James’s standing as a superstar in the NBA. Joining a Boston Celtics team that had recently competed in the Eastern Conference finals, and then acting as though the team had no prior experience in winning, despite the fact that they had just done so. Declaring, prior to this failed experiment with the Brooklyn Nets, that despite the presence of Steve Nash, the team didn’t truly have a head coach. Despite the fact that he participated in team sports, he would occasionally skip practices or games when it was in his best interest to do so. promoting an idea that the earth is flat and making fun of anyone who argue that, well, actually, our planet is pretty round.
But despite his innate brilliance, his scoring prowess, and his amazing handle, Kyrie Irving’s talent and toxicity required a constant balancing act. He was stunning, to be sure, but he was also a chemistry-killing, locker-room vibe machine with an air of indifference that he mistaken for charm.
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This dreadful place that Kyrie Irving has wandered into, pulling with him both his team and his league, is even worse than the previous level. His most recent acts, which are based on his own egotism, are also possibly harmful to the basketball team. These past few days have served as a painful reminder that the endgame of unrestrained ego and self-regard sometimes leads to the darkest of places, even for sportsmen. This realization has been a source of discomfort during these past few days.
Read this fantastic critique at Rolling Stone if you are not familiar with the documentary that Kyrie Irving put out there titled “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” if you are one of those people. The filmmaker of the documentary wrote a book that contains antisemitism, homophobia, xenophobia, and Islamophobia, and that book serves as the basis for the documentary. According to the claims made in that book, many prominent Jewish people “worship Satan or Lucifer.”
There should be no room for debate regarding the horrible nature of the content. There is no justification for spreading such nonsense. Not the player’s innate ability. Not the charitable acts that he has performed in the past. It was not the I’m-smarter-than-you sequence of deflections that he tried to foist off Saturday night after his team fell to the Pacers. This loss brought his team’s record to 1-5 and prompted his colleagues to address the antisemitism that was brewing on their star’s social media accounts.
The question that needs to be answered now is “what happens next.” When asked if this was a distraction on Saturday night, teammate and fellow superstar Kevin Durant responded, “Absolutely not. The only impact is you guys and anybody outside the locker room.”
If Durant is implying that he and his teammates don’t care about the bigoted notions that Kyrie Irving is spreading, then both Durant and his teammates have a lot of explaining to do. The notion that talent and friendship shouldn’t be used as justifications or justifications for antisemitism, racism, misogyny, and other types of hate is something that Kevin Durant and the NBA should know better than most.
This is a league that has, commendably and rightly so, connected a significant portion of its brand to issues pertaining to social justice. That dedication to justice should not be put on hold simply because one of the superstars of the NBA is uncomfortable with the idea of being held accountable when it pertains to him.
This is a league that, to its credit and to its credit, has removed two team owners in fewer than ten years, in part for making racist sentiments. This is a remarkable feat. Good. However, why should it be any different for a star player who is using his NBA-built brand to spread antisemitic propaganda?
Every virulent racist who publishes on Twitter some piece of propaganda pushing one of the countless number of hate-filled pieces floating around in the cesspool that is social media with the intent to dehumanize and target Jewish or Black people should be fired, as this is their due course of action. And accused of being a bigot whose worldview, while being protected by the First Amendment, does not have a place of support in this country or any other country, nor in any reputable business. The National Basketball Association is included in this.
Let’s be honest here. People who are filled with hatred, such as racists, antisemites, homophobes, and others, have been given more confidence in recent years. Because of this, it is even more vital to call out instances of hatred, and it is much more repugnant and disheartening that Kyrie Irving has chosen to keep that tweet up.
If acting arrogantly, dismissively, and as though one is ignorant were a valid defense against racism and antisemitism, then very few people on the planet would be held accountable for their actions.
Kyrie Irving was given enough time to figure out the message that he was trying to convey. to gain input from other people. if you are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, which is typically not done in situations like these, then to assert that he was incorrect. But Kyrie Irving was not the one who did that. If ever, he does it only infrequently. As a result, the antisemitic garbage that he posts on his social media accounts has transitioned from being his promotion to being his endorsement.
One of Kyrie Irving’s statements is as follows: This last Saturday night was a doozy, a self-righteous speech that was simultaneously cognitively dissonant and dismissive:
“You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have over… ‘You, you cannot post that.’ Why not? Why not? Everybody post everything else. You saw the word n— going up on Twitter, right? I don’t hear uproar on that. I’m not here to be divisive on what’s going on on this or that, I’m not comparing Jews to Blacks. I’m not comparing white to black; I’m not doing that.
No, just something horrible to say. Similarly, those who used the n-word on Twitter committed an act that was appalling, disqualifying, ugly, dreadful, and terrible enough to warrant termination from their jobs; but, it was not a criminal offense.
It should go without saying, but let us state it anyway: being the target of antisemitism in no way justifies racism. Antisemitism cannot be justified by the fact that a person has been the target of racism. You can’t make hate win by making more of an effort to.
This is not some insignificant matter. Racists are the ones who, most of the time, are the ones to minimize the effects of racism and the criticisms of those who point it out. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to watch that press conference without seeing in Kyrie Irving’s reaction a similar line that strikes a profound, unpleasant, and dismal chord of antisemitism.
The National Basketball Association should not tolerate such overt expressions of hate. Anyone who is unable of comprehending that does not either. The First Amendment prevents the government from putting you in jail due to the content of your speech. It has nothing to do with the fact that your boss or coworkers want to keep you around. Just ask Robert Sarver or Donald Sterling.
Do you remember a couple weeks ago when LeBron said Kyrie Irving was being misunderstood? That, at the time, had the impression of being a reminder of the Lakers’ interest in acquiring Irving if the Nets could achieve the appropriate price for him or had just reached their limit. It served as a reminder that his performance in Brooklyn would become stale over time, but that he would undoubtedly find a place to call home somewhere.
However, the Lakers and the rest of the league should stop providing an avenue for players to leave the league. It seems unlikely, but one can always hope, that LeBron would invite someone with such a bigoted outlook into his inner circle. Because it violates fundamental ethical principles. Because it is likely to divert attention away from the game of basketball, which is the last thing any team, but especially the Lakers, needs right now. Because Kyrie Irving’s juice has never been worth its squeeze. Because it would be too detrimental to LeBron’s brand to accept his ex-teammate back into the fold, even if the potential benefits of doing so exceeded the drawbacks of doing so. which is not the case.
You can only separate the art from the artist for so long before it becomes impossible to do so, as was the case with Kanye West. When it comes to determining a person’s legacy, what matters most is not how great they were in the past, or even how excellent they were in the past; what matters is who they are now, and what they do now.
There is a rationale to the decision made by Adidas, CAA, and a large number of other companies to cut relations with Ye. In the same manner as LeBron, the Lakers and any other NBA team interested in Kyrie Irving’s talent should pursue him in the same manner. In the context of basketball, he has never impressed me enough to warrant my time or investment. But now he is peddling a piece of misinformation that has strong origins in antisemitic stereotypes, and he is throwing up the same stale lines that racists often do: “Did I do anything illegal?” “Everyone posts everything else,” is what most people say. “Did I damage anybody?”
At best this guy doesn’t get it, at worst he does. In either case, he is past the point where it makes any difference to him to perform the calculation of evaluating the benefits against the drawbacks of the basketball aspect of things. It’s time to put the past behind you and move on.
It is not apparent what repercussions this will have for the Nets. It is necessary for Joe Tsai, owner of the Nets, to make clear that his announcement from the previous week that he intends to speak with Kyrie Irving is merely the beginning of the reaction that his organization will provide. However, the rest of the league should evaluate Kyrie Irving based on the following criteria: A famous person who wields an enormous amount of influence and who persuaded millions of people to view a film that promotes bigotry and dehumanizes Jewish people was called out for their actions. There is no room in the National Basketball Association for hate speech of this nature. In the case of the Brooklyn Nets, there should not be either.
The Brooklyn Nets and the NBA will have to determine what exactly this implies when it comes to their future plans. However, at a time when communities and businesses all over the country are grappling with how to address antisemitism — from the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, to members of local school board members — the fact remains that the National Basketball Association (NBA) has a problem with Kyrie Irving, and neither silence nor inaction are solutions to the problem.
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