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Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Rich Eisen Explains Why Kyrie Irving's Words are "Dehumanizing"

Unrepentent antisemite Kyrie Irving, like many people who spew hate, wants you to believe that he is the victim. On Saturday night after ESPN reporter Nick Friedell asked Irving to explain his social media post promoting a film filled with antisemitic tropes, Irving retorted that posting something on social media is not the same as promoting it, and that Friedell should stop "dehumanizing" him. 

Sports broadcaster Rich Eisen provided the perfect response to Irving attempting to play the victim:

You're dehumanizing me, Kyrie. I’m a Jewish man. Descendant of people who died in gas chambers and got incinerated by Nazis. You're dehumanizing me by putting on your platform a book and movie that is filled with anti-Semitic tropes that are designed or eventually lead to the dehumanization of me, and my children, and my ancestors who died because they were Jewish.

It's not funny, and I can't believe I have to tell someone from Duke who's clearly smart enough to know--you're not promoting it with a tour--but when you put it in front of four million people who might not have known about it, you’re promoting it! You're giving it your platform. When you give it your platform, you may not agree with all the things of the people who created the book or movie or theory that you say is true, you’re now owning all of that person’s opinions.

On Monday night, Irving's Brooklyn Nets won a home game versus the Indiana Pacers, 116-109. Irving played very well (28 points, six assists, six rebounds), and that is not surprising--he is a tremendously talented basketball player. The real story is not the Nets improving to 2-5 or Irving continuing to play at a very high level. The real story is that seven fans sat in courtside seats wearing T-shirts reading "Fight Antisemitism." One of them, Aaron Jungreis, told ESPN, "We felt that the Nets did not condemn an antisemite in their ranks. And we wanted to show love, we're still Net fans and we love the team, but they should reprimand Kyrie because he's full of hate. We're full of love. Hopefully he'll come around to the other side. I hope he realizes how much antisemitism he is stoking by putting out [a link to] a film like this which is extremely anti-Jewish. And I hope he comes to his senses...I think he should be suspended and he should understand what he did, but I don't know if they will."

Irving acts like he is a brave person who speaks the truth, but he is a coward who spouts ignorance and then pretends that linking to an antisemitic film on his social media platform to spread that film's hate to his millions of followers could not possibly have any negative, real life consequences. "Did I harm anybody?" Irving asked Friedell at Saturday's press conference. Yes, in a country where antisemitic attacks are increasing to unprecedented levels, encouraging your millions of followers to watch a film that denies that the Holocaust happened and accuses Jews of worshiping Satan is harmful. Irving has deleted the offensive social media post, but he has not admitted that the film he promoted is full of hate-filled lies. Essentially, he gave the film free publicity to millions of his followers, and after he did that it is not nearly enough to just delete the social media post without any comment. It is irresponsible to incite hatred to millions of people and then just try to pretend that nothing happened.

If you don't understand the problem here, then just imagine that your least favorite politician posted something on social media that is offensive to you or to your ethnic group. Would you be satisfied if that person just took the post down with no comment, or would you think that he is obligated to repudiate the statement? Maybe if you think about it in those terms then you will understand why what Irving did is wrong, hurtful, and potentially putting a vulnerable minority group at risk.

As long as Irving keeps putting the ball in the hoop, though, he is immune from discipline, unless a whole lot more than seven people show up in NBA arenas wearing "Fight Antisemitism" T-shirts; that would get the NBA's attention, because the NBA cares more about profits than anything else. Wearing a "Fight Antisemitism" T-shirt at this time in this country is a lot braver than anything Irving has ever done.

If Irving is such a brave freethinker, why did he skip out on Monday night's press conference after refusing to answer Friedell's questions on Saturday? Irving declared on Saturday that he stands by his beliefs and won't back down, so why is Irving afraid to fully articulate his beliefs in a setting where he can be questioned and challenged? Obviously, he prefers staying in an echo chamber with other people who believe in hate-filled conspiracies.

NBA players are no strangers to wearing T-shirts to support a variety of causes, including T-shirts supporting one specific person who has been convicted of violating Russian laws (other Americans detained in Russia who are not good at playing basketball apparently do not matter). How many NBA players are willing to wear a "Fight Antisemitism" T-shirt?

It will be fascinating to see if TNT's "Inside the NBA," one of my favorite TV programs and in many ways the voice/conscience of the league, addresses this topic during tonight's broadcast of a doubleheader that includes the Chicago Bulls visiting the Brooklyn Nets. It would be great if TNT's studio crew wore "Fight Antisemitism" T-shirts, even if just for one segment. Think about what a powerful message that would send to a large audience.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:00 AM



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