Is Kyrie really sorry or sorry that he was suspended? Image: Getty Images
It was one of the rare beautiful things of 2020. It’s a shame that an event as obviously evil as the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis was the catalyst for such touching moments. It was long overdue for the Black Lives Matter movement, and with it black people at large, to see a surge of support. This was months into the pandemic when no one would be vaccinated for several months. However, many were undeterred from showing up ready with hand sanitizer and masks.
Marches were held across the country and around the world to show support for the black community and those who had historically been marginalized, an outright denial of Floyd’s murder, which was captured on crystal clear video. And it shed light on the decade of police brutality against people of color. I attended BLM marches. I saw people wearing makeup with signs and megaphones. I reported on a march organized by Mizzou’s student-athletes who were at the forefront of the movement on college campuses. The demographics of these people: Two legs, ten fingers and toes, and one heartbeat. Every skin pigment has been portrayed with a clear message – Stop racial injustice in all its forms. One of the most effective things about the support at these 2020 rallies was how immediate and thorough it was. Floyd was murdered on Memorial Day, a national holiday that always falls on a Monday. Even before the end of the weekend, the response was clear. Every major city in America had a protest expressing their frustration.
Let’s compare that to the reaction to the hatred shown against the Jewish people in recent weeks. It was tiny compared to late May 2020 or after Jacob Blake was shot dead by police months later. My argument isn’t that the support shown to People of Color wasn’t deserved – far from it. It is now time for the Jewish people to have that support, especially in the world of sports. Kanye West’s cancellation, Kyrie Irving’s suspension and Marcus Stroman’s groans aren’t enough, although baby steps aren’t something to scoff at. I know I’m not the only member of the Jewish people who recognizes them and is grateful for them. The subtle differences between discriminating against someone because of their race or religion are irrelevant here. A large group of people are being unnecessarily attacked in public.
Here’s a quick catch-up for those who don’t already know. Irving promoted an anti-Semitic book and documentary on social media last weekend. When asked about his contributions, he clearly didn’t understand the implications, but also refused to apologize. He wasn’t suspended by the NBA because the league has no precedent for kicking players off for being goofs on social media. It was up to the individual franchises, as in the case of former Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard, who used an anti-Semitic slur in a video game livestream. He was first suspended indefinitely by his team, then handed a one-week ban by the NBA before finally being traded to Oklahoma City. He never played a game for the Thunder and was released.
After being given another opportunity to comment on the situation during a media session on Thursday, Irving talked a lot without “I’m sorry” or “I have no anti-Semitic beliefs” coming out of his mouth. This comes after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, condemned his behavior and the Anti-Defamation League said they would work with the Nets and Irving to donate $1 million to charities helping fight anti-Semitism. The ADL, whose mission is to stop the mistreatment of Jewish people and ensure equal treatment for all, detected 2,717 incidents of antisemitism in 2021, a 34 percent increase from 2020. That’s an average of more than seven such incidents per day .
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Brooklyn suspended Irving indefinitely late Thursday night, essentially until he can prove he understands why his actions were despicable. The laziness surrounding his stance on the coronavirus vaccine and the round earth didn’t get him out of the hot water this time. Irving also “apologized” Thursday night, but sincerity is questionable if he comes after his suspension. When someone is forced to say sorry, are they really sorry? I cannot say that this is definitively supported by his misspellings of anti-Semitism in his attempt at post-suspension damage control.
Teammate Kevin Durant was asked Friday for his thoughts on Irving’s actions His answer was essentially for everyone to move on. He also took to Twitter to explain his startling statement, noting that he does not condone hate speech before also misspelling anti-Semitism. Does the Nets have an anti-autocorrect policy?
Words matter, explanations matter. Not recognizing a huge platform you have because you’re famous is downright negligent. Don’t you believe me when it comes to the Jewish people? Then explain to me the credible broad threat to New Jersey synagogues reported Thursday by the FBI’s Newark Branch.
This is not a Jewish issue. It is an issue that threatens and marginalizes Jews as a whole. That a few people, some with yarmulkes, are sitting in the front row of the Barclays Center on Monday wearing t-shirts that read “Fight Antisemitism” is not overwhelming support. Durant, unaware of anti-Semitic hatred, would be disingenuous. His longtime best friend, manager, and business partner, Rich Kleiman, is, you guessed it, Jewish. Also, KD plays for Brooklyn and more than 10 percent of the world’s Jewish population lives in the New York metropolitan area. That’s 2.1 million Jewish people living within a 30-mile radius of where Durant competes for home games, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
And why didn’t an NBA player speak out against Irving? Is the Uncle Drew Cinematic Universe so profitable that you dare not interfere with it? Remaining silent to maintain personal and professional relationships is hardly compliance. The best the Jewish people can expect from an active NBA player is… Robin Lopez retweeted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s thoughts? Aches and pains shouldn’t be a one-way street. Just because vitriol has nothing to do with you doesn’t mean that you’re unsympathetic and don’t call the hate-spitters.
It has been six days since Irving promoted the anti-Semitic book and documentary. As of Friday, the book held three different spots on Amazon’s bestseller list for texts on religion and spirituality. The audiobook was #1, the original paperback was #5, and a remastered version was #7. It’s a good question to ask why it’s still available on Amazon in any form. Without Irving, the book has zero chance of making three top seven spots on a bestseller list.
Had it not been for the suspension, Irving would have passed against the Wizards tonight. The NBA has only one current Jewish player, Washington’s Deni Avdija, according to the Atlanta Jewish Times. Flaunting or exploiting Judaism because of this situation is not the right move when Avdija is doing something flashy and extraordinary. Something subtle, like every wizard wearing a t-shirt condemning anti-Semitism, would be another big baby step. Irving’s actions are a double-edged sword for the Jewish people. A staggering majority of the world’s people are not anti-Semitic, and clarifying the mistreatment of the Jewish people over time is a good thing to have a chance of preventing further suffering. Then there are the fringe fanatics, that tiny minority with loud voices that Ye handed a megaphone to. Ensuring they are unwanted in the NBA and society as a whole is paramount to moving forward. Irving didn’t do that until his paycheck was taken from him.