NBA star Kyrie Irving backtracks, will donate $500,000 for anti-hate programs

“I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility,” the basketball superstar said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Kyrie Irving backtracked Wednesday from his tweeted promotion of an antisemitic movie last week and announced that he will donate half a million dollars to anti-hate groups in an act of accountability for his words.

“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” the basketball superstar said in a joint statement with his Brooklyn Nets team and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”

The Nets’ guard, who has millions of followers on Twitter, had posted a link last Thursday to the 2018 movie, Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, which was based on a book of the same name that is full of antisemitic tropes.

It includes ideas such as Jews’ supposed control over banking and the media, the baseless claim that Jews played a leading role in the slave trade, and connects Jews to the worship of Satan.

It also claims that blacks are the real Chosen People, and that the three monotheistic religions conspired to cover up this up in favor of the Jews.

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In a press conference Saturday night, Irving had defiantly defended his right to write what he wanted online, indicated that he believed in the ideas regarding “African heritage,” and said that he hadn’t hurt anyone.

The tweet was then deleted on Sunday after a firestorm of criticism was aimed at the player, including condemnations from the NBA and his own team, which said they “have no tolerance for the promotion of any form of hate speech.”

In the announcement of the donation, Irving retreated a bit from his former statements, saying, “I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles. I am a human being learning from all walks of life and I intend to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. So from my family and I, we meant no harm to any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light.”

His team said it will match the contribution with another $500,000, which the Nets and Irving will use “to develop educational programming that is inclusive and will comprehensively combat all forms of antisemitism and bigotry,” with the help of the ADL.

“There is no room for antisemitism, racism, false narratives or misguided attempts to create animosity and hate,” said Sam Zussman, CEO of BSE Global, the parent company of the Brooklyn Nets and its home arena, Barclays Center. “Now, more than ever, there is a pressing need to ensure education in these areas. We are putting our prior statements into practice because actions speak louder than words.”

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Irving had not spoken in public since Saturday night, but responded warmly to a group of fans that sat courtside during a Nets game on Monday wearing shirts saying “Fight Antisemitism.”  One of them, Mike Dube, told cable channel SNY that the star had approached them during a timeout and said that he appreciated them.