After social media posts promoting a movie with anti-Semitic messages, Kyrie Irving compounded the controversy by refusing to take them down or even acknowledging they were hurtful.
It’s touched off the latest culture war, millions of his fans agreeing he’d done nothing wrong with many others wanting him fined, suspended, traded or even waived. All indications are the latter group will be 0-for-4.
Brooklyn GM Sean Marks declined comment on whether any in-house discipline was coming, and a league source hadn’t heard of any plans to fine or suspend Irving. As a vice president in the NBA players association, Irving would have the backing of the union in such an event. And while the team spoke with Irving, it started him Saturday against the Pacers and is expected to do so again in Monday’s rematch.
Both the league and the team issued statements decrying anti-Semitism and hate speech, but conspicuously didn’t mention Irving. It was only Nets owner Joe Tsai who publicly rebuked the All-Star by name.
That critique came Friday night, the same day Tsai had personally spoken with Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO and National Director. A source close to the situation confirmed the conversation to the Post.
It’s unclear whether their chat prompted Tsai to rebuke Irving. But with his tweet timestamped at 11:29 p.m., it’s reasonable to think it followed the conversation.
“Thanks to my friend @joetsai1999 and @BrooklynNets for responding quickly to condemn the promotion of #antisemitic hate speech. All of us at @ADL appreciate your leadership and look forward to continuing our discussions,” Greenblatt tweeted.
“The social media posts from, @KyrieIrving, are troubling. The book and film he promotes trade in deeply #antisemitic themes including those promoted by dangerous sects of the Black Hebrew Israelites movement. Irving should clarify now.”
When pressed by The Post, Irving confirmed he’d seen the film.
“I did. I had a lot of time last year, a lot. I read a whole bunch, good and bad, about the truth of it,” said Irving.
After being spoken to by the Nets — it’s unclear whether it was Tsai or GM Sean Marks — and the public outcry, it strains credulity to think Irving was unaware of how his posts were viewed. And he still dug in his heels and chose to leave his tweet up as of Sunday afternoon.
“We’re in 2022, it’s on Amazon, public platform. Whether you want to go watch it is up to you,” Irving said. “There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different than 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 the adultery of ‘You, you cannot post that.’ Why not? Why not? Everybody post everything else.”
In the same terse nine-minute discussion with reporters, Irving admitted “I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence on my community.” He has 17.5 million followers on Instagram and another 4.5 million on Twitter — almost four times the Nets’ combined following as a team.
Richard Jefferson — who starred on the Nets’ 2002 and ’03 Finals teams — eloquently explained Saturday on the YES Network’s game broadcast exactly why Irving’s post was indeed tacit endorsement even if he wants to claim otherwise. And that endorsement carries not just weight but responsibility.
“It’s tough because it’s disappointing. Kyrie says he’s not anti-Semitic. But the tweet is still up; the tweet’s still up there,” Jefferson said. “Earlier in the summer Kyrie also posted Alex Jones who basically tortured a bunch of families … in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook tragedy. He was torturing those families and Kyrie posted a video from this man [although] it wasn’t about that specific thing.
“You have to understand how to use social media that has effects, how it can affect people. And if you’re insensitive to that then you’re truly endorsing that. So to say that and not take it down, to repost Alex Jones, you are endorsing them and giving them your social media platform with millions and millions of followers. You’re giving them an endorsement. You’re saying ‘Look at this man, look at this movie.’ Those things have effects and people have to understand that.”
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