Brooklyn Nets’ guard Kyrie Irving (seen above at their Sept. 26 media day) has found himself in even more of the spotlight than usual this week. On Thursday afternoon, Irving tweeted a link to a 2018 film heavily criticized as antisemitic, and one based on a book criticized for the same anti-Jewish comments. On Friday, that led to condemnation from his team, and from owner Joe Tsai:
I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation. I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.
— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) October 29, 2022
On Saturday, Irving put out a claim that he “meant no disrespect”:
I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs. The “Anti-Semitic” label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday. I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions.
— Hélà (@KyrieIrving) October 29, 2022
But, as many noted, Irving has kept up the links to that film that drew the initial criticism here for its antisemitic remarks. Here’s one of those notes, from CBS’ Seth Davis:
If you look at Kyrie's timeline, three tweets below this one he still has the Amazon link to the Anti-Semitic book. Nor has he denounced and renounced the work he promoted. That undermines this non-apology. https://t.co/0joaVKfZ3B
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) October 29, 2022
And here’s the still-up link to that film from Irving’s Twitter:
— Hélà (@KyrieIrving) October 27, 2022
Here’s a key part of what Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone wrote about that book and film Saturday:
The 2018 film was directed by Ronald Dalton, Jr., and based upon his 2015 book of the same name. A description for the film states that it “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel,” while a similar one for the book reads, “Since the European and Arab slave traders stepped foot into Africa, blacks have been told lies about their heritage.” Both suggest Hebrews to Negroes espouse ideas in line with more extreme factions of the Black Hebrew Israelites, which have a long history of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and especially antisemitism.
The Black Hebrew Israelite movement is fairly broad, comprising organizations that (per the Anti-Defamation League) “operate semi-independently.” The movement generally coalesces around the notion that Black people are the real descendants of the ancient Israelites, with more extreme factions claiming that Black people have been “robbed of their identity as being ‘God’s chosen people’” (via the Southern Poverty Law Center).
It’s those extremist sects that have often parroted “classic” antisemitic tropes, like claiming European Jews (often referred to as the “synagogue of Satan”) wield outsized control over society, especially in industries like banking and the media. They’ve also pushed antisemitic claims that Jews are responsible for slavery and the “effeminizing of Black men.”
At one point in the purported documentary Irving shared, Dalton (who also narrates the film) brings up the “real truth about the slave trades.” He claims that, when teaching slavery, schools don’t mention the involvement of the Catholic Church, Arab, East African, or Islamic slave traders, or “the Jewish slave ships that brought our West African negro or Bantu ancestors to slave ports owned by [Jews].”
So Irving’s “I meant no disrespect” really shouldn’t be given much credit, especially as he hasn’t actually apologized and hasn’t removed the offensive link in question. We’ll see if he winds up offering anything more, and if the Nets and Tsai wind up pushing for anything more.
[Kyrie Irving on Twitter]