NBA star Kyrie Irving has issued an apology following his suspension from the Brooklyn Nets over his “failure to disavow antisemitism” after a controversial social media post.
On October 27, Irving—known off the court for discussing conspiracy theories—posted a link to a documentary titled Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America on Twitter, sparking backlash from many, including the NBA, Nets team owner Joe Tsai and several Jewish organizations.
The 2018 documentary is based on a 2014 book of the same title by Ronald Dalton. The film advertises itself as an exploration of how the biblical identity of Black people has been covered up by Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
Rolling Stone reported that both the movie and the book follow ideas that belong to “extreme factions” within the Black Hebrew Israelite movement that has been accused of being antisemitic, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic and Islamophobic.
With a black square serving as the image on his post, Irving wrote: “While doing research on YHWH [Yahweh, name for the God of the Israelites], I posted a Documentary that 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.
“I am grateful to have a big platform to share knowledge and I want to move forward by having an open dialogue to learn more and grow from this.”
“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,” he added.
The Nets and Irving had stated on Wednesday that the sportsman took “responsibility” for the “negative impact” his since-deleted post had on the Jewish community, and vowed to work with the Anti-Defamation League to fight antisemitism. It was also said that each party will donate $500,000 to organizations “that work to eradicate hate and intolerance.”
However, when asked by the press on Thursday whether he held any antisemitic beliefs, Irving refused to condemn the messaging of the film, telling reporters: “I respect all walks of life. I embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit.”
When pressed to provide a definitive statement on his stance, Irving responded that he could not “be anti-Semitic if I know where I come from.”
Hours later, the Nets said in a statement that they were “dismayed” by Irving’s refusal “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film.”
“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organisation, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team,” the statement added. “Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Per the statement, Irving will remain suspended until he completes unspecified “remedial measures.” The suspension will see him miss at least five games.
In his apology post on Instagram, Irving said of his previous comments: “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 [antisemitism] 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. I am no different than any other human being. I am a seeker of truth and knowledge, and I know who I Am.”
Irving’s Instagram post on Thursday contrasts with his tone on Saturday, when he urged a reporter not to “dehumanize” him during a testy exchange at a press conference.
According to ESPN, addressing the tweet at the press conference, Irving said: “I’m not here to argue over a person or a culture or a religion and what they believe.”
“Did I do anything illegal? Did I hurt anybody? Did I harm anybody? Am I going out and saying that I hate one specific group of people?,” Irving said.
“So out of all of the judgment that people got for me posting, without talking to me, and then I respect what Joe [Tsai] said, but there has a lot to do with not ego or pride of how proud I am to be [of] African heritage, but also to be living as a free Black man here in America, knowing the historical complexities for me to get here,” he continued.
“I’m not going to stand down on anything that I believe in. I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me,” he added.
In an exchange that has gone viral on Twitter, ESPN reporter Nick Friedell asked Irving why he decided to “promote something that Alex Jones said.”
ESPN reported that the basketball star shared a video of Jones on social media in October. Jones, the founder of Infowars, was recently ordered to pay more than $1 billion in damages to the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, after falsely claiming that the massacre was a hoax.
“I do not stand with Alex Jones’ position, narrative, court case that he had with Sandy Hook, or any of the kids that felt like they had to relive trauma, or parents that had to relive trauma, or to be dismissive to all the lives that were lost during that tragic event,” Irving said.
“My post was a post from Alex Jones that he did in the early ’90s or late ’90s about secret societies in America of occults. And it’s true,” Irving added. “So I wasn’t identifying with anything of being a [campaigner] for Alex Jones or anything.”
Friedell then said, “To follow up on the promotion of the movie and the book,” before Irving interjected.
“Can you please stop calling it promotion. What am I promoting?” he asked.
“You put it out on your platform,” Friedell said.
“But I’m promoting it?” Irving responded.
“By putting it out there, people are going to say that you’re promoting it,” Friedell stated.
“I put it out there just like you put things out there, right?…You put things out there for a living right?” Irving asked.
“Right, but my stuff is not filled with antisemitic stuff,” Friedell responded.
“Great, so let’s move on… Don’t dehumanize me up here. I’m another human being, I can post whatever I want so say that and shut it down and move on to the next question,” Irving said.