Arguments as to whether Irving did or did not promote a movie with a strong antisemitic message on his social media platforms are concerning. How such rhetoric and implicit endorsements make such commentary no longer a societal outlier, but outright embraced in some societal circles, is an issue.
Once again, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are the most talked-about team in the NBA.
And once again, a lot of that talk is for a lot of the wrong reasons.
On November 1, the Nets announced the firing of Steve Nash as head coach after two-plus seasons.
Nash’s firing is the most recent dumpster fire within the Nets organization. But it doesn’t burn nearly as bright or as widespread as the latest drama brought on by Irving who continues to be one of the NBA’s most talented but polarizing figures.
The Nets guard is catching a considerable amount of flack for linking information about the movie, Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, through his social media channels which consist of millions of followers.
Several reports have indicated the movie contains antisemitic messages, among them being that Jewish people worship Satan.
A lot of the flack Irving has received has been centered around the notion that he’s promoting work that’s antisemitic.
That’s the symptom while ignoring the root cause of the problem.
He may not see or want to see it, but his actions are yet another move toward normalizing what should never, ever be normal.
And making matters worse, the more Irving tries to explain his position on the matter the more convoluted it all becomes.
“In terms of the backlash or what people call it, we’re in 2022,” Irving told reporters on Saturday. “History is not supposed to be hidden from anybody. And I’m not a divisive person when it comes to religion. I embrace all walks of life; you see it on my platforms.”
And with that being said, Irving is smart enough to know whatever he posts or links to, is going to be viewed as an endorsement or support for that work.
In this instance, that’s a big problem.
The NBA has been among the leaders in professional leagues when it comes to player empowerment and its athletes using their platforms to speak on whatever issues they feel moved to do so.
But even the NBA had to chime in with its disappointment.
"Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA's values of equality, inclusion and respect. We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions," read the NBA's statement.
But with that freedom of expression comes a responsibility that far too often, Irving doesn’t embrace as consistently as he should.
They weren’t alone.
Nets owner Joe Tsai also expressed his disappointment in Irving posting links to an antisemitic movie on his social media platforms.
“I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation,” Tsai wrote on Twitter. “I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.”
Irving has made it clear that he’s not apologizing because as he sees it, he did nothing wrong.
And that’s problematic on so many levels as Irving complicates and confuses the issues by both recognizing his impact on one hand, and not taking the responsibility that comes with it.
“I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence in my community,” said Irving, who then followed those words with, “And what I post does not mean I support everything that’s said.”
But when you post something so inflammatory and hurts so many people and there’s no context provided by you to explain what parts you do support and which you don’t, folks are left with little choice but to believe you support the project in its entirety because there’s no alternative reasoning or thought provided.
And no, saying you posted the link after doing an Amazon Prime search of the word "Yahweh" and "documentaries," is not gonna cut it.
This entire brouhaha is par for the course with Irving who says he doesn’t want to be divisive and yet consistently finds a way to do just that, be divisive.
Kevin Durant came to Brooklyn in large part to team up with Irving and contend for an NBA title. When having two of the NBA’s top players wasn’t enough, they brought James Harden aboard to form one of the most offensively talented triumvirates of NBA talent ever assembled.
Then came the global pandemic and Irving’s desire to not get the vaccine, which meant several missed games due to NBA health and safety protocols. Harden, seeing this train wreck in the works, forced his way out of Brooklyn and is now in Philadelphia, while the Nets finished off a lackluster season by getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs by Boston— the only team in the playoffs last season to get swept.
Lots of factors contributed to Brooklyn’s disappointing showing, but few stand out more than Irving’s absence.
And here he is, once again being part of a distraction for a Brooklyn Nets team that’s once again underachieving.
Brooklyn’s struggles are yet another normalization gone wrong for Irving.