In a testy exchange with the media Saturday night, Kyrie Irving doubled down and dug in, defending not only his recent social media posts promoting a movie largely viewed as anti-Semitic, but also older ones amplifying conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Irving’s posts from late this past week drew a statement from the NBA and a public rebuke from Nets owner Joe Tsai. Neither the league nor the team, however, convinced Irving to take down his initial post or back down in the slightest. And after the Nets’ latest loss, a 125-116 drubbing by the Pacers at Barclays Center, he vowed not to.
“Out of all the judgment that people got out of me posting — without talking to me — I respect what Joe said, but there has a lot to do with not ego or pride with how proud I am be African heritage but also to be living as a free black man here in America knowing the historical complexities for me to get here,” Irving said. “So I’m not going to stand down on anything I believe in. I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me.”
Irving does indeed have a huge fan base, with 17.5 million followers on Instagram and another 4.5 million on Twitter. And on Thursday he took to both platforms to promote a 2018 movie called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” Both the film and the 2014 book it is based on are filled with anti-Semitic disinformation, including accusations of large numbers of Jewish people worshipping Satan.
The Nets star shared the film’s Amazon page, saying he came to it because his name “translates in the Hebrew language as Yahweh” and he had searched the e-commerce site for Yahweh. Irving confirmed having seen the film.
“I watched it. I watched it and read books. I had a lot of time last year to read a lot, good and bad about the truth of our world,” Irving said.
When asked if he understood how many viewed it as anti-Semitic, he replied: “It’s on Amazon, public platform. Whether you want to watch it or not is up to you.
“There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being so don’t treat me any different. You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have over top of the adultery of, you cannot post that. Why not? Why not?”
Irving also defended his post from six weeks ago in which he shared to his Instagram story a 2002 video of Alex Jones decrying a “New World Order.”
“I don’t expect understanding from a media conglomerate group,” Irving said.
While Irving said he didn’t stand by Jones’ lies that the Sandy Hook school shooting was fake, he did back the conspiracy theorist’s claims that a tyrannical organization is working in the shadows in the United States. It’s a narrative that frequently has been connected with anti-Semitism.
“I do not stand by 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 the 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 that Alex Jones did in the early ’90s or late ’90s about secret societies in America and cults.
“And it’s true. I wasn’t identifying with anything of being a campaignist for Alex Jones or anything. It’s just here are posts … and it’s funny, it’s actually hilarious because out of all the things I posted that day that was the one post everyone chose to see. It just goes back to the way our world is and works. I’m not here to complain about it. I just exist.”
He exists in a world in which he claims to have been indoctrinated by an education system that fed him what he views as false history.
During the YES broadcast of the Nets’ game Saturday, commentator Richard Jefferson said: “It is disappointing, Kyrie says that he’s not anti-Semitic and these things, but the tweet is still up. The tweet is still up there.”
The league released a statement that did not mention Irving — who is a players’ union vice president — but which clearly condemned his actions.
“Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion and respect,” the NBA’s statement read. “We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemetic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions.”
Tsai also offered a public rebuke.
“I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-Semitic disinformation. I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion,” Tsai tweeted, then followed up with, “This is bigger than basketball.”
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