Former NBA star-turned-commentator Charles Barkley did not mince words when responding to the latest Kyrie Irving controversy.
Irving has come under intense criticism after he promoted an antisemitic film on Twitter. The seven-time All-Star doubled down on his endorsement of the film Saturday night, despite rebuke from the NBA, the Nets and Nike.
In response, a group protested Irving’s recent actions on the sideline wearing “Fight Antisemitism” shirts Monday night during the Nets’ home game against the Pacers.
On Tuesday’s “Inside the NBA,” Barkley shared his take that Irving should have been sidelined for his harmful actions.
“I think the NBA dropped the ball,” Barkley said during the broadcast. “I think [Irving] should have been suspended. I think [NBA commissioner] Adam [Silver] should’ve suspended him.”
Barkley closed by saying he feels that it’s “too late” for the NBA to properly reprimand Irving at the risk of giving into external “peer pressure,” lessening the power of the league responding without outside input.
His colleague on the panel, Shaquille O’Neal added on, calling Irving an “idiot”.
During the following game broadcast, fellow player-turned-commentator Reggie Miller condemned the response from the league’s players on the situation.
“In years past, this league has been great because the players have led the way and they have strong voices,” Miller said via the New York Post. “When Donald Sterling stepped in it, when Robert Sarver just recently stepped in it, our voices in the basketball community and our players were vocally strong in some type of discipline being handed down — or be gone.
“The players have dropped the ball on this case when it’s been one of their own. It’s been crickets. … And it’s disappointing, because this league has been built on the shoulders of the players being advocates. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And if you’re gonna call out owners, and rightfully so, then you’ve got to call out players as well. You can’t go silent in terms of this for Kyrie Irving. I want to hear the players and their strong opinions as well, just as we heard about Robert Sarver and Donald Sterling.”
Until Irving apologies and disavows the antisemitic material he has been sharing, this situation will likely not resolve anytime soon.
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However, the words of Barkley, Shaq and Miller – all Basketball Hall of Famers – echo what many are feeling around the league and beyond: that the league and Nets have not done enough to grapple with the harm of Irving’s actions.