What’s Going on With Kyrie Irving And Why Does It Matter?

A lot of Jewish teens are tired at this point. Every corner of the internet is riddled with news about Kanye West doing some weird vow of silence and Kyrie Irving giving some forced apology. They get the reason why: their statements were antiemetic and wrong. Very wrong. But can’t they just listen to music and watch sports in peace? Do adults have to keep asking them if they are okay? Does every post on social media have to be about these two idiots?

It really can be exhausting to not only see celebrities saying antiemetic stuff but then see all of the people agreeing with them nonstop all over the internet. Sometimes we just want to pretend it’s not happening so we can go on with our lives and not get awkward attention at school. But that’s part of the reason I think it’s worth mentioning it one last time — because some Jewish teens can’t ignore what’s happening. Some can’t even attend school because of what is happening.

The Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit’s Frankel Academy was evacuated last week after receiving bomb threats. Several other Jewish schools across the country also had bomb threats that same week. Synagogues in New Jersey were also threatened later in the week.

While no bombs were found on the premise, the Jewish people in these communities were left terrified. Should they even go to school? Should they attend temple? Many have chosen not to, even breaking long-term traditions in fear for their lives.

While it may seem like just some stupid video shared online at first, it’s important to remember that many people act upon the information they see online, whether it’s obviously fake or not. Antiemetic rhetoric on 4chan and other sites has led to devastating real-life tragedies. But what has made it even more scary now is the fact that it’s clearly accepted to say anti-Jewish statements online.

What was once discussed on sketchy forums and amongst degenerates online has become almost mainstream. Kanye West has been saying anti-Jewish nonsense since 2013 and earlier — but nobody really cared at all. Once he saw that nobody was really all too bothered by this, he was able to threaten Jewish people blatantly on Twitter. He even felt that no brands would drop him over it. And why should he have felt otherwise? Nobody had really cared until now.

Kyrie Irving Shares AntiSemetic Propaganda On Twitter: A Timeline

NBA star Kyrie Irving shared a link to a movie called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on October 27. The film is based on a book of the same name and both discuss harmful stereotypes that lead to deadly hatred towards Jews.

Said the Anti-Defamation League: “While much of the film deals with historical and genetic arguments about various racial and ethnic groups, it also includes extensive antisemitism, including claims of a global Jewish conspiracy to oppress and defraud Black people, allegations that Jews are in part responsible for the transatlantic slave trade and the claim that Jews falsified the history of the Holocaust in order to ‘conceal their nature and protect their status and power.'”

The film also discusses harmful tropes about Jews having an immense amount of political and media-related power, depicting them as controlling and greedy.

Soon after Irving shared the link, Nets owner Joe Tsai said he was “disappointed” in the star player. But many called upon Tsai to do something about it. Why not suspend him? The outrage intensified when Irving stood up for his tweet the following morning.

As public pressure increased, the NBA also released a statement condemning Irving. But nothing was done. Irving was questioned about his tweets in a postgame press conference where he stuck to his initial opinion. He added that he can post whatever he wants.

Despite the continued backlash and Irving’s refusal to apologize to the Jewish community, there was no mention of any consequences. Eight Jewish fans decided to attend a Nets home game while wearing shirts that said “FIGHT ANTISEMITISM.” One of the Jewish fans said later that Irving appeared to be “laughing sarcastically” and mocking them.

The pressure started mounting and the Nets were forced to make a formal statement. In the official tweet, it was mentioned that Irving would donate $500,000 towards causes and organizations that “work to eradicate hate and intolerance.” The ADL declined the donation, not happy with Irving’s behavior and lack of a genuine apology.

“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a tweet. “While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize. I will be meeting with Kyrie in person in the next week to discuss this situation.”

But on November 3, Irving still refused to apologize. He instead called himself a “beacon of light.” Later that day, Irving was finally suspended. Nike also dropped its $11 million per year contract with the basketball star.

This prompted Irving to finally make an apology, which many believe to be a little too late.

“To all Jewish families and communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize. I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled antisemitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish brothers and sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the documentary,” Irving said on social media. “I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against antisemitism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary I agreed with and disagreed with. I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate. I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all.”

Should You Accept Irving’s Apology?

You have are probably thinking, after reading all this, that what Irving did is pretty crappy. Sharing anti-Jewish conspiracies? Denying the Holocaust? Making fun of Jewish basketball fans? Yeah, it’s not great. But you probably don’t want to boycott the Nets and you probably still want to watch basketball. As a matter of fact, the Nets have a bigger Jewish fanbase than many other basketball teams, which is one of the reasons this situation sucks so much.

So should you accept Irving’s apology even if you think it’s fake? Even if you feel it was forced out of him? That is totally up to you.

In a powerful New York Times article on how Brooklyn’s many Jewish basketball fans feel about it, many long-time Nets fans have decided they no longer will watch the games until Irving is gone. Many are actually afraid to even attend games, remembering other scary threats against their communities in the past.

But maybe you don’t live in New York City. Maybe you don’t feel scared. That’s okay, too.

The important thing to really take form this situation is that real lives are being impacted by the words shared by famous people online. And as more and more celebrities make anti-Jewish statements, the more that dangerous people feel emboldened to share their own hate speech as well. This makes the rehtoric more and more normalized and supported online — and then offline.

“Kanye was right about the Jews” was put on posters hanging over a freeway in Los Angeles and then similar messages were publicly displayed at at a football game in Jacksonville, Florida. People feel less and less afraid when they see that their comments get support — that it’s even encouraged.

You can watch Nets games if you want. But the important thing to do is recognize that words have weight. That hate is dangerous. Support Jewish teens that are frustrated, scared, angry… Stand up to anti-Jewish rhetoric online. And don’t be afraid to seek out a community where you can feel safe and where you can share your feelings on the situation, especially if you feel you can’t in your everyday life.