From Outrage to Outreach: Thoughts on the Kyrie Irving Incident
Like so many, I have some thoughts on the Kyrie Irving debacle.
First of all, I should make it clear that this is something that hits me on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that I am a Jewish Brooklyn Nets fan (have been since they played in the ABA as the New York Nets in the early ’70s) and so I have a personal stake in all of this on top of the much more personal stake I have in any question of antisemitism.
I should also say that, like a lot of Nets fans, I wasn’t thrilled when the Nets signed Kyrie but felt that any drama he would bring would be compensated for by his play and the fact that signing him was the price for signing Kevin Durant. And, for a long time, I defended Kyrie not for his stances — which have often been indefensible — but for the fact that he gets a ton of press for his bad actions but very little for the many good works he does, particularly in the Black community.
Obviously, his irresponsible promotions of conspiracy theories, of Alex Jones’ material, and, most recently, of the antisemitic propaganda film “Hebrew to Negroes,” brought things to a different level.
So some thoughts…
Kyrie says his doesn’t hate Jews and didn’t mean to disparage them. Given what I’ve heard from people who actually know Kyrie Irving, I believe him when he says this. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have antisemitic beliefs. One can hold racist beliefs without wanting to assault or lynch Black people. Happens all the time, and while bigotry born of ignorance and ignorance born of real malice are different, both are harmful. Antisemitic beliefs are no different. We consider people with racist beliefs who truly don’t think they mean people of other races (and you can substitute gender or religion or sexual orientation, or gender identity or anything else in there) racist. Kyrie may truly wish no harm to Jews, but what he promoted and stood by for far too long was antisemitism.
That doesn’t mitigate what Kyrie did here. From everything we’ve ever seen in public about him, Kyrie very much seems to be a man who finds it incredibly difficult to admit he’s wrong, tends to double down when shaky and poorly sourced beliefs he holds are challenged, and has an intense aversion to being…