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Thursday, November 03, 2022

Kyrie Irving Refuses to Apologize for his Antisemitism

It did not take long to find out how insincere, inadequate, and meaningless Kyrie Irving's joint statement with the Brooklyn Nets and Anti-Defamation League is. 

Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has been silent about Irving's antisemitism up to this point, responded to the weak statement by noting that he is "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."

Not long after Silver finally spoke up, Irving met with the media for the first time since his Saturday media availability (when he accused media members of dehumanizing him for questioning his promotion of an antisemitic film that dehumanizes Jews). Asked if he is antisemitic, Irving declared, "I cannot be anti-Semitic if I know where I come from." This is a not so-veiled reference to the beliefs espoused in the film that Irving promoted, namely that Black people are the real Jews, which Irving understands to mean that he cannot be antisemitic because he thinks that he is a semite. Irving also called reading his "superpower," arrogantly indicating that he has reached some level of expertise as a historian. Irving bragged about reading dictionaries and knowing what words mean. Maybe he started at the back of the dictionary and did not make it very far, because he has repeatedly flunked knowing the definition of antisemitism, a subject that I discussed in an article that I wrote two years ago

Merriam-Webster defines anti-Semitism as:

1: hostility toward, or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.

It is important to note two things:

1: Being a Semite has nothing to do with skin color.
2: Although anti-Semitism and antisemitism are both considered formally correct spellings, the latter should probably be preferred to avoid the false narrative that antisemitism means anything other than Jew-hatred.

In 1879, German author Wilhelm Marr used the term anti-Semitism specifically to refer to his hatred of the Jewish people, and his opposition to what he declared was a Jewish infiltration of German society. Marr founded the League of Antisemites, the first German organization dedicated to fighting the alleged threat that Jews posed to Germany. The League of Antisemites advocated the forced removal of all Jews from Germany. Marr popularized the term anti-Semitism as a synonym for "Jew-hatred."

Nazi Germany's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels publicly declared in 1938, "The German people is anti-Semitic. It has no desire to have its rights restricted or to be provoked in the future by parasites of the Jewish race." He was not referring to Semites in general, or to anyone other than Jewish people. The word and the concept of antisemitism have nothing to do with the broader definition of Semites or with skin color; the word and the concept apply specifically toward and against the Jewish people and only the Jewish people. To suggest otherwise is to willfully deny documented historical facts.

Antisemitism has been labeled the "socialism of fools," and Irving is emerging as the poster child of this foolishness. 

Silver is demonstrating that he is a weak leader. Did he meet with Donald Sterling to discuss that "situation"? Did he meet with Robert Sarver to discuss that "situation"? There is no "situation" to discuss here. Irving promoted an antisemitic film, Irving has had multiple opportunities to apologize and make amends, and Irving has defiantly refused to do so. If the NBA does not agree with the antisemitism Irving is promoting as an NBA employee, then the NBA should suspend or terminate Irving's employment. LeBron James, Chris Paul, and many other NBA players expect nothing less regarding owners, so that same standard should apply to players as well.   

When David Stern was Commissioner, he took immediate and decisive action when an owner, coach, or player stepped out of line. He fined and/or suspended Ron Artest, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Mark Cuban, Gregg Popovich, Latrell Sprewell, Glen Taylor (then-owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves), and many others. Stern did not first check to see which way the winds of popular opinion were blowing, and when he announced the punishment he issued he made it clear that he and he alone had decided: he made the decision, and he was willing to take the heat. Even if some of his actions were overturned or reduced after arbitration, Stern knew that he must make it crystal clear that the league has principles and standards--and he knew that perhaps the most important part of his job was to uphold those principles and standards. 

Stern put a stop to Carmelo Anthony's "Stop Snitching" nonsense and Anthony's associations with street criminals by explaining to Anthony that he was part of the NBA business, the NBA business did not support "Stop Snitching," and if Anthony felt strongly about continuing down that path then he could do so without being an NBA player. That is the type of message that Silver must deliver to Irving regarding Irving's promotion of antisemitism.

Silver's passivity is not an excuse for the silence of NBA players and the NBA Players Association. Irving is a Vice President of the NBA Players Association. Silence is complicity. If Irving's antisemitism is not endorsed by the NBAPA, then the NBAPA should speak up and make that clear. 

The NBA's coaches have also been silent. Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich are two of many coaches who do not hesitate to offer unsolicited opinions about a host of political and social issues. Is antisemitism not important to them? Kerr and Popovich also declined to speak out about Chinese atrocities even though the NBA has multi-million dollar deals with China.

If these self-styled social justice warriors are going to be selective about what they speak about, don't be surprised if people are going to be selective about hearing what they say.

In case you are not familiar with the film that Irving promoted (and the book upon which the film is based), the film asserts that the Holocaust never happened, that the Jewish people controlled the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and that Jewish people worship Satan. The film includes false, unsourced quotations to support these false, vile assertions. 

During today's media availability session, every time Irving was asked to clarify his position regarding the film's antisemitism, Irving reversed the question and talked about the racism suffered by Black people. If that is the subject Irving wanted to discuss, then he should have made a factual post about that important topic--but, instead, he promoted an antisemitic film, and Irving's poor choice means that he will be asked questions about that poor choice until he provides answers.

Irving also expressed confusion about why he is being criticized for promoting a film that is available on Amazon.com. Amazon certainly should be held accountable for distributing antisemitic propaganda--and Amazon has a terrible record of being perhaps the world's largest promoter of Nazi propaganda films, which has resulted in public criticism of the company. Just because Irving or others are not aware that there are protests against Amazon does not mean that such protests have not happened. 

Amazon's poor track record does not diminish Irving's responsibility for his choice to promote an antisemitic film to his 20 million social media followers. Adolf Hitler is responsible for what he wrote and said, but any person who promotes Hitler's genocidal ideology is responsible for promoting hatred. Amazon is responsible for the content it disseminates, but any person who promotes antisemitic content is responsible for promoting hatred. Irving could have informed his 20 million social media followers that Amazon is streaming a hate-filled film and Irving could have declared that he stands with the Jewish people against antisemitism. That is not what he did, and he must be held accountable for his words and deeds (as we all must).

Anyone who praises Irving for "speaking his truth," "not bowing to the plantation owners," and so forth, should keep in mind that there are a large number of people who "speak their truth" that slavery did not happen (or was not that bad) and who espouse many negative beliefs about Black people. If you support Irving for "speaking his truth" then you forfeit your right to criticize others for speaking their "truth." Either there is objective historical truth--including that the Holocaust happened and that slavery happened--or each person can define history however he or she wants to define it. 

If you support Irving, just be clear about exactly what you are supporting: you are supporting antisemitism, and you are supporting the notion that there is no objective historical truth. Also, keep in mind that David Duke and the white supremacists love the antisemitic lies that Irving promotes, so if you support Irving you have aligned your thinking with the viewpoint of the Ku Klux Klan. 

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posted by David Friedman @ 8:50 PM



At Friday, November 04, 2022 3:36:00 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

The NBA has become a cesspool of controversy in ways that could have never been imagined. From a potentially fatal punch that has widely been forgotten to rampant misconduct with several organizations to a massive antisemitic crisis, I don't even want to know what will happen next. Stern certainly had his flaws but as you noted, it is very difficult to picture the league being in this type of disarray under his watch.

At Friday, November 04, 2022 4:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


David Stern was not perfect--no one is perfect--but I trusted his leadership a lot more than I trust Adam Silver's leadership, and I believe that Stern would have reacted more swiftly and more effectively to some of the recent incidents than Silver has. Silver is a consensus-builder and coalition builder but sometimes the leader has to step up and take command.


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