As a Jewish man, the news of Kyrie Irving being traded to Dallas gave me a sinking feeling. I wasn’t thinking about his dazzling dribble moves, his elite shot-making, or his ability to relieve the pressure from another star on offense completely. No, my mind was in a separate space with nothing to do with basketball. I knew that for the foreseeable future, I was not sure if I could support the Mavericks.
What has he done?
In late October of 2022, Irving posted a link to a film titled “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America!” on his Twitter account, with no caption. The tweet has since been deleted, but the ramifications of a seemingly harmless decision continue to reverberate to the present day.
Firstly, the film shared by Irving shares many antisemitic tropes, including quotes (some of them made up) from Adolf Hitler. It is rooted in extremist ideas and disinformation. Additionally, this came during a time when rapper Kanye West was under fire for spewing antisemitic remarks that could not be taken out of context. After receiving blowback for the post, Irving then took to Twitter not to apologize, but just to say he meant “no disrespect” and to deny his anti-Semitic label.
The Nets still had games to play, and after their next one he was pressed by reporter Nick Friedell about the tweet, as well as a conspiracy theory he had posted a few weeks prior:
Irving was then suspended without pay, dropped from Nike, and forced to meet with the Anti-Defamation League. It was not until almost a month later that Irving apologized and returned to the Nets organization.
Why this matters
Growing up Jewish, I experienced all forms of hateful rhetoric toward my religion and culture. From hurtful stereotypes to bigoted “jokes”, to even people I didn’t know asking me if I was Jewish because of the way I looked. Antisemitism has been around as long as any other horrible prejudice, and as our editor Josh Bowe explained, it is on the rise.
When you post something to your platform that garners the attention of almost five million followers (or even more in Kanye West’s case), you are promoting everything that is posted, whether you mean to or not. Irving promoted a film with hateful ideology and failed to see how his tweet with no words hurt an entire community of people he claims he loves. It is still not clear what his purpose in posting the film was, but his response to the situation is what still does not sit right.
He got visibly upset with the line of questioning, would not adamantly put down antisemitism, and failed to apologize sincerely and in a timely manner. Being able to share, deny, and move on from anti-Semitic content, and still have a job enables people who do agree with those sentiments to say things like this because it shows a lack of consequence:
fandom like this is a sickness yikes pic.twitter.com/SIIxU9nsaU— mike taddow (@MikeTaddow) February 6, 2023
I want you to imagine, for a second, that someone at your place of work came out and tweeted a video bashing your religion, or your culture, calling you frauds, and quoting some of the worst people to ever live. Your company had a meeting, and in it, they got upset and defensive when they were called out for promoting such a thing. They worked in the office on the second floor, while you’re on the third floor. Monday morning your boss calls you and says they’re moving up to the third floor right across the hall from you because they had issues with the people downstairs. How would you feel? Uncomfortable? Outraged? Confused? You should, and that is exactly how I and many other Jewish fans feel right now. It is hard to feel safe in the Mavericks community now that a face of their franchise has an anti-Semitic past.
Where do we go from here?
Do I believe that Kyrie Irving is a man filled with hate? No, I do not. But he has made very dumb decisions and has failed to effectively make up for them. Players are human, and I think we should treat them as such, and the human Irving has a lot of reconciliation to do.
I have been a Mavericks fan my whole life. My family has season tickets and I have watched northward of 80 percent of their games in the last ten years. To give that up because of one bad apple sounds insane, but Irving has brought me to the point of considering it. Trading for him is promoting him, and thus promoting his actions, and in turn hand-waving the atrocity that was his handling of anti-Semitic material.
I don’t want to give up being a fan, so now there are two options. Number one, forgive, but do not forget. This option will require work on Irving’s part, and seeing that Mark Cuban is a Jewish man himself, I hope he has the ability to educate in the necessary ways. Whether you’re Jewish or not, you should not be ready to forgive Irving yet, until he makes actual strides to show that he was misinformed and hurt a lot of people. He has donated money, but athletes have a lot of money. What they don’t have a lot of is time, and until he puts in significant time to learn the deep hurt he has caused, it is hard to forgive him for his inexcusable actions.
The other option is to continue to support the Mavericks, disconnect the players from the people, and live with the off-the-court stuff. I have a hard time finding peace in doing this, because every time I put on a piece of Mavericks gear now, it indirectly means I am representing anti-Semitic beliefs. It is a complicated situation, and though we are all entitled to our own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, it is important to understand that basketball is just a game, and some things are bigger than wins or losses.