The most important part of the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving’s joint announcement that they’ll partner with the Anti-Defamation League to pledge $1 million total to organizations that fight intolerance was what wasn’t there — an apology. The self-enlightened guard feeling remorseful for his actions and holding himself accountable for neglecting his responsibilities of having an enormous social media following is different from diplomatically stating you oppose hatred and you’re aware of the negative impact on the Jewish people you caused.
Apologies are paramount in the public eye and Irving failed to procure one ounce of regret, even with whatever steps caused him to fork over $500,000 to charity in this instance. Money doesn’t solve everything. His quote in Wednesday’s press release is the bare minimum NBA fans have come to expect from the martyr to an audience of one (himself). The lack-of-apology trend is a pattern in itself for Irving. Just look at his stance on getting vaccinated or whether the Earth is round. The ADL, whose mission is to stop the mistreatment of Jewish people and provide equal treatment for all, found 2,717 antisemitism events in 2021, a 34 percent increase from 2020. That averages to more than seven such incidents per day.
On Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, released his own statement, calling Irving’s post reckless and recognizing he hasn’t actually apologized. The two apparently have a meeting scheduled next week to discuss the issue. How bad do you want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation? A person Irving directly discriminated against runs the league that signs his paychecks. He’ll be forced to answer in some way for promoting the book and documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, which pushes several lies about the Jewish people and their mistreatment of people of color. Rolling Stone stated the film and text are “stuffed with antisemitic tropes” and equated itself with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group with a long history of sexism, racism, and most frequently antisemitism. A former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan once described the group as their Black counterparts.
This is a situation where I believe Silver is applying the principles from Judaism of tikkun olam, literally “repair of the world” in Hebrew. It essentially means to act in the correct fashion, no matter the actions of others. In modern day, it’s referred to more frequently for social justice for the Jewish people. The NBA gave into peer pressure by not suspending Irving after his now-deleted antisemitic social media posts and Saturday postgame exchange with ESPN reporter Nick Friedell, which made things much worse for me because of Irving’s lackadaisical attitude. By the time his despicable actions had widespread comprehension in the sports world, suspending Irving would’ve again been giving into peer pressure. It would’ve come off as damage control, not because the NBA actually wanted the Nets’ guard to miss playing time.
Despite their playful bickering, which has become a staple of the NBA’s coverage on TNT, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal became two voices of reason in this situation. Both condemned Irving’s actions, with Barkley stating the lack of suspension was the wrong decision and O’Neal despising how Irving divided people who like basketball. Amare Stoudemire, a former Nets assistant who converted to Judaism in 2020, also spoke out about the nonexistent apology. Instead, Irving played Monday night, scoring 28 points in 43 minutes in a win over the Indiana Pacers, like nothing happened, maybe except for the good Samaritans sitting courtside wearing yarmulkes with “Fight Antisemitism” T-shirts. Do you think Kyrie noticed them? I’m not sure he cared, even if he got a good look.
Antisemitism is incredibly easy to spot and diagnose. Like any other hatred, it should be stamped out and the responsible parties should seek to learn how to avoid repeat behaviors. Failure to adjust should mean those unwilling to change get left behind. There’s no place for discrimination of any kind, and the fact that some with large platforms don’t understand their responsibilities of being a public figure (i.e. Kanye West) is downright awful to those in harm’s way of the vitriol. The implementation couldn’t have been clearer for the Jewish people over the last two weeks. Eradicating the world of antisemitism has crossed over into mainstream America again since Ye’s antisemitic patterns ballooned. And of course, such discourse brings out the worst of society. I’ll spare you the emails and DMs, but turns out grammar isn’t important to bigots.
Brooklyn returns to action Friday night against the Washington Wizards on the road. Why don’t the Nets visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as part of their trip? The D.C. metropolitan area is where nearly 300,000 Jews call home, per the Jewish Virtual Library. Even more startling, more than 10 percent of the world’s Jewish population lives in the New York metropolitan area. That’s 2.1 million Jewish people residing within 30 miles of Barclays Center. Silver is one of them. Why not as part of your meeting with Irving next week take a field trip to The Jewish Museum? It’s a straight shot down Fifth Avenue from the NBA headquarters.
The difference between Irving and Ye is that I believe West is antisemitic. Irving is deranged and a slightly useful idiot. He’s lazy for not using Google to make sure he’s not promoting derogatory projects. He’s stubborn for retreating to the retort of “don’t dehumanize me up here. I can post whatever I want” when speaking about it publicly. I don’t think he’s ever blatantly hated Jewish people though. Irving labeled himself as an omnist, a group of people who recognize and respect all religions and their belief systems. I guess that theory didn’t apply to the Jewish people last weekend. And that’s why an apology was so important. We’re still waiting, Kyrie.