Written by: Ryan
Edited by: Justin
Visual by: Xiatian
Last Thursday, November 4, star NBA player Kyrie Irving received severe backlash for his tweet in support of a film deemed by reviewers to be heavily anti-semetic. The film, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” is based on the identically-titled book by Ronald Dalton, which has been the recipient of heavy criticism for its use of racist themes, being deemed by Rolling Stones as “stuffed with antisemetic tropes.”
Despite public outcry, being suspended by his team the Brooklyn Nets, and even the cancellation of his signature shoe–the Kyrie 8, Irving stood by his tweet, explaining, “It’s on Amazon, a public platform, whether you want to go watch it or not, is up to you.” He even defended his statements, tweeting out, “Did I do anything illegal? Did I hurt anybody, did I harm anybody?” He obviously misses the mark, failing to realize the horror that many fans felt after realizing one of their basketball idols, one of the greatest today, supports antisemitism.
Not even a week later, when asked by reporters about his September tweet of a video documentary by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion in damages for spreading lies about the Sandy Hook massacre, he again stood by his previous actions. While he does not believe that the massacre was staged as Alex Jones proposed, the athlete’s association with a convicted criminal has worsened his controversial behavior in the public eye.
Nevertheless, statements like these have almost come to be expected from Irving, who has been dubbed the “Kanye West of the NBA”. The nickname compares the basketball player to a popular recording artist who has been known for similar outlandish and, recently, antisemetic claims. In the past, Kyrie Irving has been known to be a proponent of the flat-earth movement–this comes despite playing many games all over the globe. His voicing of such opinions online have made him the center of controversy and public backlash, much more often than the average NBA star. This habit has had a negative impact on the image of the NBA as a whole and its player’s reputations.
While his recent statements may have been dismissed by many as Irving’s characteristic senseless ramblings, others have taken the opportunity to hold the player accountable for his words. As of now, Kyrie Irving has been suspended by the Nets indefinitely, and issued a list of six tasks that he must complete before returning to team play, including expressing an explicit apology, something which many believe he is yet to do. Irving is also required to donate $500 thousand to anti-hate causes before being allowed back onto the court.
Kyrie Irving, like many professional athletes and celebrities, has a massive social media following. As a result, his words–both positive and negative–have large repercussions on the impressionable minds of his fans, many of them young. Kyrie defended himself by saying “I’m no different than the next human being, so don’t treat me any different” — but his statements betray something far more significant. He fails to realize that his words carry more weight than the next person’s. He must realize the power that he has because of his platform and use it for good, not to spread hatred. And until then, it seems Kyrie Irving will not be returning to the NBA for some time.