Kyrie Irving, a guard for the Brooklyn Nets, played in his first game after serving a suspension for posting a link on social media to an antisemitic film. Despite some initial rust, Irving overcame it to score 14 points and contribute to the Nets’ 127-115 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Brooklyn.
While Kyrie Irving was getting ready to play in his first game since November 1, approximately one hundred of his supporters gathered outside the arena wearing purple shirts with the logo of Israel United In Christ, a fringe group, and handed out antisemitic literature to passers-by. Irving’s last game was on November 1.
On the central plaza outside of the stadium, members of Israel United in Christ, a group that is regarded as a hate organisation by the Southern Poverty Law Center, yelled slogans prior to the beginning of the game. In addition, they held a protest at the Barclays Center on November 9, which was the only other home game that the Nets had played since Irving was suspended at the beginning of this month. During the time when a video of the protestors was being shared on social media on Sunday, the Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, who is also a vice president of the players’ union executive committee, tweeted the video with the word “Energy” in the caption. Isiah Thomas, a point guard who is in the Hall of Fame and an analyst for NBA TV, also shared the video on Twitter with the phrase “Let it be known.”
There have been other demonstrations at the Barclays Center in favour of Irving, including the one that took place on Sunday. Irving’s reluctance to get vaccinated against Covid-19 resulted in his being banned from participating in home games due of a municipal requirement. Last year, anti-vaccine demonstrators tried to storm the stadium doors in response to this news.
Earlier in the day, Irving expressed “profound regret” for sending a link to a video that he believed to be antisemitic on October 27. This was his first press conference since the beginning of his ban on November 3rd. The punishment, which was supposed to continue for a minimum of five games, instead lasted for eight games.
Sean Marks, general manager of the Nets, was present at the press conference. Shetellia Riley Irving, Irving’s stepmother and agent, as well as Tamika Tremaglio, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, were also there. During the press conference, which ran for almost 13 minutes in total, Irving answered four questions.
Irving, who is 30 years old, said that he was “rightfully defensive” at his previous press conferences while talking about the link to the movie that he had put on Twitter. He made this statement to the media. The video “Hebrew to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which was released in 2018 and is hosted on Amazon, is characterised by antisemitic stereotypes, including incorrect statements about the Holocaust. After some time, Irving’s comment was taken off.
Irving did not issue an apology and did not distance himself from antisemitism or the movie at either of the two press conferences he had in the aftermath of the offensive tweet, which ultimately led to the suspension of the Nets. Additionally, Nike terminated its partnership with Irving. On November 3, after the team had suspended him, he issued an apology on Instagram.
He continued by saying, “When you’re dealing with that feeling, I believe it’s important to let it out. And I did. In addition, there were other aspects of both those statements and the other press conferences that were misconstrued and perceived incorrectly. What I really wanted to get across is that I have nothing but respect for the community that raised me.
In addition, Irving voiced his disapproval of a rumoured list of six demands that the Nets had presented to him as requirements for his return. According to The Athletic’s article, the prerequisites on that list included having Irving meet with members of the Anti-Defamation League and completing sensitivity training. The Nets have not verified the list in a public statement.
On Thursday, Jonathan Greenblatt, the leader of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said in an interview with The New York Times that he had not yet met with Irving but that he planned to do so. Irving said that he had conversations with “several persons within the Jewish community,” but he did not elaborate on who those individuals were.
When asked what he thought about one of the central claims of the film, which is the false stereotype that Black people are the original Israelites, Irving responded by saying, “That was the intent when I was watching the movie was to have a deeper understanding of the heritage of my family and where I come from.” And when I stated I didn’t intend any damage, I really meant it.”