The New Jersey I mean Brooklyn Nets have suspended basketball star Kyrie Irving without pay because they’re upset over his repeated failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.” The brouhaha comes after the iconoclast ballplayer tweeted a link to a video called, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” The film is based on a book by Ronald Dalton which has been criticized for being antisemitic by civil rights groups.
IMDB describes the film:
The Movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel by proving the true ethnicity of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Sons of Ham, Shem and Japheth. Find out what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have covered up for centuries in regards to the true biblical identity of the so-called “Negro” in this movie packed with tons of research.
Thursday night, the Nets suspended Irving for at least five games because they believed his apologies over the post were not sufficient:
Statement from the Brooklyn Nets pic.twitter.com/699px8XYpx
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 4, 2022
Their statement says:
We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.
Not everyone thought he deserved it:
The corporate ownership of the Brooklyn Nets just declared Kyrie Irving “unfit to be associated” with the team and suspended him. I assumed he must’ve said something really crazy today. This is what he actually said. Ludicrous moral panic
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) November 4, 2022
I’ve defended Irving in the past over his steadfast vaccine positions, but I’m torn over this one. With Kanye/Ye posting nutty stuff about Jews lately, it’s an uncomfortable atmosphere. Feel free to skewer me in the comments, but I am not a Kayne/Ye fan.
While I believe that corporations have gotten too quick to promote “woke” positions and punish those who fail to toe the line, Irving is undoubtedly getting strange. His Twitter feed is definitely bizarre, with his tagline being, “I am never alone. God and the ancestors are always near by, I AM.”
Ok. Whatever that means.
But is being weird enough to cost you your job? Irving spoke to the media Thursday and was asked about the link:
“I didn’t mean to cause any harm,” Irving replied. “I’m not the one that made the documentary.”
“I take my full responsibility, again I’ll repeat it, for posting something on my Instagram or Twitter that may have had some unfortunate falsehoods in it,” he said.
“I take my responsibility for posting that,” Irving continued. “Some things that were questionable in there, untrue.
“Like I said the first time you all asked me while I was sitting on that stage. I don’t believe everything that everybody posts. It’s a documentary. So, I take my responsibility.”
Asked if he had any antisemitic beliefs, Irving responded: “I respect all walks of life. I embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit.”
When pressed to answer yes or no to the question, he replied: “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”
Evidently, this wasn’t enough for his corporate masters, who delivered the suspension Thursday night. Meanwhile, Irving also tried to atone by offering a donation of $500,000 to the Anti-Defamation League—which was rejected:
“(Irving) has been given ample opportunity to do the right thing, apologize and condemn #antisemitism. He has failed at almost every step along the way. This suspension is well-deserved,” [Anti-Defamation League CEO] Jonathan Greenblatt said. “We were optimistic but after watching the debacle of a press conference, it’s clear that Kyrie feels no accountability for his actions.”
As I said, this is a complicated issue. I deplore antisemitism just as I do every form of hate and identity politics.
But I haven’t seen the movie, and I can’t claim personal knowledge that the film is a nasty screed against Jews. I’m just taking CNN’s and ESPN’s word for it, hardly unbiased sources.
We are once again faced with the question: should woke corporations be dictating their views on the public and on their employees? After all, Irving apologized, albeit in his own quirky way, and offered to donate $500,000 in mea culpa money.
The takes on Twitter, our social media town square, are all over the place, with many saying he’s being wrongly punished, while an equal number are asserting that he’s an evil maniac spouting dangerous hate speech. It is worth pointing out that what started the controversy was Irving posting a link to a movie available on Amazon.
Kyrie Irving shared a link to a movie and look what they did to him for not SPECIFICALLY saying the words they wanted him to use to apologize.
I’ve never seen the movie, I am not interested in watching it and even if everything they said is true…. He linked to a movie.
— TheQuartering (@TheQuartering) November 4, 2022
Bottom line: it’s a slippery slope. Today’s antisemitism could be tomorrow’s “I voted Republican.” One day, you could be suspended for five days without pay for voting the wrong way, tweeting a questionable link, or expressing the wrong opinion. Irving’s job is to make baskets, not please CNN opinion writers.
I don’t like antisemitism, but I don’t like censorship and corporate overreach either. What, exactly, did his NBA overlords think would happen when they made racial identity central to everything, claiming that Black Lives Matter was the highest good, while bowing to China and their censorship demands and ignoring grotesque human rights violations?
I don’t unquestioningly support everything that comes off Irving’s keyboard, because some of it’s seriously zany, but I deeply question corporations’ new role in policing speech. There’s no good end to that.