Kyrie Irving must answer for promoting anti-Semitism: Andscape
Time to draw a line with Kyrie Irving. Their behavior is no longer peculiar, eccentric or even strange: it is dangerous.
On Saturday night, Brooklyn Nets guard Irving denied all responsibility for posting a link to a movie and book that spreads vicious lies about Jews. Instead of apologizing, or simply avoiding the question, he converted combative and defiant. “I’m not going to give up on anything I believe in,” he said.
Then came the scariest statement Irving has made yet, which is saying something given his history of spreading conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine quacks, and the kind of misinformation you might hear over a megaphone at the street corner
“I’m just going to get stronger because I’m not alone,” Irving said. “I have a whole army around me.”
This warlike imagery comes almost four years to the day 11 Jews were killed by a gunman who invaded the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The man accused in the shooting was active on social media, and often published anti-Semitic material on line.
No, Irving did not explicitly call for violence and has said nothing to indicate that he would go that far. He doesn’t have to. There are too many disturbed people out there they are willing to kill, who consider themselves foot soldiers in an army fighting threats that exist only in their own twisted minds. By posting a link to a book that falsely paints Jews as the enemy, Irving may be giving ammunition to the next murderer. And even without bloodshed, all of society suffers when prominent people promote the falsehood that a group, simply because of its ancestry, is inherently sinister or dangerous. We black people should know better than anyone.
Irving’s actions come amid a disastrous 1-5 start to the season for the championship-aspiring Brooklyn Nets. While Nets forward Kevin Durant denied the situation contributed to the team’s losses, it’s another major distraction from a player who seems to bring drama wherever he goes.
To be fair, I doubt Irving would say he believes the lies put forth in the book and movie he published, such as, “in previous years, many Scottish/Yorkish European Jews and Freemasons have claimed to worship Satan or Lucifer . Many famous Jews and high-ranking Freemasons have written books admitting this.” I hope you don’t support falsehoods like: “Using control of our money and mass media, European Jews gained control of our thinking…” These are just two of the anti-Semitic prejudices in the book, which do not i will name . The whole mess is detailed in the rolling rock article that broke the story.
What I think Irving was arguing about was his right to post whatever he wanted on his social media. “Did I do something illegal? Did I hurt someone? Did I hurt someone?” he said At another point in the back-and-forth with ESPN reporter Nick Friedell, he denied he was “promoting” anything by posting it.
But posting a link to this kind of stuff hurts people. It reinforces an ancient ignorance that today continues to cause misery to countless people. Just ask Jewish kids who hold out taunts about the Holocaust at school, or the Jewish families whose homes have been disfigured with swastikas Elevating such lies has real consequences, but Irving refused to accept this fact, one of many he denies.
Before now, Irving’s most troubling departure from science and reason was his refusal to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. This was dangerous, because encouraged other vaccine opponents and made it more likely that some would contract a potentially fatal or debilitating disease. But at least there is a vaccine, which most people take, to fight the coronavirus. There is no vaccine against bigotry.
It’s also ridiculous that Irving says he’s not “promoting” the material when he posts a link to it on his Twitter account. The man has 4.5 million followers. His brilliance in basketball has given him a “platform”. A platform increases the visibility and prominence of things. Not only did Irving choose to elevate bigoted content to his platform, he refused to take it down. The tweet linking to the book and movie was still open as of Sunday afternoon.
Before we get to how to hold Irving accountable, a few more falsehoods need to be addressed. I heard this kind of crazy statement on Sunday from members of the Irving Army who responded to one of my social media publications:
There is a lot of truth in this book, why focus on a couple of bad things?
Because even if that were true, the book’s anti-Semitism would be like poison hidden in ice cream.
Why are you asking Kyrie questions that have nothing to do with basketball?
Because black athletes, including Irving, have historically demanded to be heard on issues outside of their sports. You can’t have it both ways.
Why are you pandering to Jews but giving anti-black statements a pass?
Why don’t you ask (pick a billionaire) to say (pick a topic)?
Since Irving refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions, here’s a suggestion:
The Nets should require Irving to attend a private meeting with people from the team, the NBA, the Anti-Defamation League, a respected black scholar on the history of prejudice, and Nike, which will release the Kyrie 8 in November. The purpose would be to educate Irving, who clearly needs a lesson in how to conduct real historical research, about why his position is so dangerous. Give him a few days to reflect on himself and then ask him to withdraw the charge that elevates anti-Semitism. If he agrees, he issues a press release saying he’s learned from the experience and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.
If he refuses, the NBA should consider fining Irving and Nike should reconsider its relationship with him, just as Adidas ended its lucrative partnership with rapper Kanye West over his anti-Semitic remarks. The league refused to tolerate racist remarks by former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling and fined Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for transgressions involving racist language. The NFL has a policy that allows discipline for personal misconduct; so does my own contract with ESPN. Freedom of speech is something that needs to be protected, but it is not unlimited. Harmful and dangerous speech has consequences.
I recognize the complexities of the relationship between blacks and Jews in America, who have been both allies and opponents in the ongoing effort to overcome the fiction of white supremacy. But we’ve all suffered the kind of lies that Irving’s post promotes. He should answer for that.
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