After releasing a statement on Wednesday saying he “took responsibility” for his tweet promoting an anti-Semitic movie, the Nets were hoping the latest Kyrie Irving would fade into the background. (So apparently Brooklyn can move on to the next controversy of hiring a coach that another team suspended less than two months ago surrounding his actions with a subordinate female staff member.)
But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is not done with Irving and released this statement, calling for a full apology.
“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material. 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. I will be meeting with Kyrie in person in the next week to discuss this situation.”
Irving, the Nets organization, and the Anti-Defamation League did release a joint statement. As part of that, Irving and the Nets promised to donate $500,000 each “toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities.”
Joint statement from Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Anti-Defamation League pic.twitter.com/5szamIClsh
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 2, 2022
Here is Irving’s quote from the release:
“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” Irving said in the statement. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility. I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles. I am a human being learning from all walks of life and I intend to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. So from my family and I, we meant no harm to any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light.”
Silver is correct, that is not an apology.
Silver and the NBA are dealing with something we all in American society are dealing with: Balancing free speech rights against people spouting provably false things or outright lies. As a nation, we are still dealing with that from the last election as some cannot accept a verified outcome that didn’t align with their worldview.
Irving Tweeted out a link to the three-and-a-half-hour movie “Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which denies the Holocaust and, according to those that have watched it, both should not be called a documentary and is filled with hours of hate speech toward both the Jewish people and many others, such as the LGBTQ community.
Irving is rightfully proud of how he has used his voice and the power of his status as an NBA player to help the underserved. However, with that voice comes responsibility, and saying, “I don’t believe everything in the movie” does not justify using his power to promote that kind of hateful speech.
But what is the NBA’s role in policing that? Part of this is business for the league: Irving’s Tweet prompted considerable backlash, including fans sitting courtside for a Nets/Pacers game in Indiana wearing “Fight Antisemitism” T-shirts.
Silver will sit down and talk with Irving, but there are no simple, clear answers here. Other than Irving should issue a full-throated apology.