NBA and Brooklyn Nets face calls for stronger response to Kyrie Irving’s tweet about controversial movie

The National Basketball Association and the Brooklyn Nets are facing backlash for failing to discipline Nets guard Kyrie Irving after he tweeted a link to a movie that critics say promotes anti-Semitic tropes.

Last Thursday, Irving tweeted a link to the 2018 film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” ​​on Amazon Prime Video. The synopsis says the film, based on a 2015 book of the same name, “uncovers the true identity of the children of Israel.” Several Jewish rights organizations, including the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League, denounced the film as anti-Semitic.

The Nets and the NBA have since issued statements denouncing Irving’s tweet and affirming their intolerance of anti-Semitism and any form of hate speech.

Nets owner Joe Tsai said in a tweet on Saturday that he wanted to “sit down” with Irving and make sure he understands “it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion”.

The NBA also said it intends to continue working with all members of the NBA community to “ensure everyone understands the impact of their words and actions.”

However, former Jewish athletes and leaders argue the team and league need to go further, calling on them to hold Irving accountable through disciplinary action.

“I think the Nets should have suspended him,” Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, told ABC News. “They are part of the problem and they need to act.”

Representatives for Irving, the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Several former professional basketball players, including Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller, have also spoken out about the controversy, denouncing Irving’s tweet. Barkley said he thinks Irving should be suspended, citing past precedent.

Then-Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo was suspended in 2015 after directing an anti-gay slur at an NBA referee. Last year Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat was fined $50,000 and suspended for a week after he uttered an anti-Semitic slur during a live stream while playing video games.

Irving’s teammate Kevin Durant was also fined last year for his use of homophobic and misogynistic language in Twitter messages to actor Michael Rapaport.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving gives a thumbs up to fans wearing “fight antisemitism” shirts during the first half against the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on October 31, 2022 .

Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

“We suspended people and fined those who slurred homophobic people. And it was the right thing to do. If you insult the black community, you should be suspended or heavily fined,” said Barkley on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”

“When you’re someone as good at basketball as he is, people are going to listen to what you say. I blame the NBA, he should have been suspended,” Barkley added.

When asked why Irving wasn’t disciplined for his tweet, Nets general manager Sean Marks told reporters, “I think we’re having these backstage discussions. Honestly, I don’t want to really getting into these discussions at the moment… Really just trying to weigh up exactly what the best course of action is here.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based Jewish civil rights organization, initially applauded the NBA and the Nets via Twitter “for responding quickly to condemn the promotion of #anti-Semitic hate speech.”

However, ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, who said he has had ongoing conversations with the NBA, said Irving’s reluctance to apologize and take responsibility indicates he remains still a lot to do.

“He plays in Brooklyn, which has one of the largest Jewish communities in the United States of America. To a fanbase, much of which is Jewish, to insult them and question their identity,” said Greenblatt at ABC News. “He didn’t recognize the pain he caused.”

Greenblatt said he wanted to engage Irving on the issue.

“I think it’s more ignorance, not intention. But that doesn’t diminish his responsibility,” he added. “We need an ongoing process of discussion and dialogue. And I hope that happens.”

Irving has since deleted his original tweet but continues to defend his right to share the link.

“I’m not going to give up everything I believe in,” Irving said at Saturday’s postgame press conference. “I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me.”

He noted that he is “not a divisive person when it comes to religion” and that he embraces “all walks of life”.

“Did I do something illegal? Did I hurt someone? he added. “Have I hurt anyone? Do I go out saying I hate a particular group of people? »

He confirmed watching the film but denied approving it and said he shared the link after finding the film while searching the internet.

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