NBA star Kyrie Irving wears Palestinian keffiyeh

This weekend was not the first time that Irving embroiled himself in a controversy involving accusations of antisemitism.

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

Professional basketball player Kyrie Irving, who plays guard for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, appeared at his team’s post-game press conference on Saturday wearing a black and white keffiyeh, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians that has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian resistance against Israel.

The Australian-American NBA player, who also has Native American roots, did not address the headwear as he spoke to reporters after his team’s 132-125 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. He also posted a photo on Instagram over the weekend of himself wearing the headscarf as he walked around the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, DC, and accepted a Palestinian flag as a gift from a basketball fan at Saturday’s game.

Irving’s decision to wear a keffiyeh garnered significant attention on social media. Pro-Israel supporters lambasted the decision as “disgusting,” accusing him of antisemitism and calling him a “POS Jew hater.” Pro-Palestinian supporters, meanwhile, applauded him for wearing the keffiyeh “in solidarity with the Palestinians” amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

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This weekend was not the first time that Irving embroiled himself in a controversy involving accusations of antisemitism.

In October 2022, while playing for the Brooklyn Nets, Irving tweeted a link to a film that promoted antisemitic disinformation, including conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial. The Brooklyn Nets suspended him for five games when he did not immediately apologize — and even defended himself — for sharing the movie and failing to “disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so.”

The NBA star later apologized on Instagram for sharing details about a film that “contained some false antisemitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion.” He said he opposed all forms of hatred and would donate $500,000 toward organizations that combat hate. It was then reported in February that he deleted the Instagram apology.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, Irving has shared pro-Palestinian messages on social media. The athlete — who likes to go by his Native American name “Hélà” online — has more than once reposted tweets about genocide and “crimes of the empire,” seemingly referring to Israel, by an account on X/Twitter called “End All Colonialism, Free Palestine.” He also shared messages about the US funding Israel’s alleged “genocidal massacre” in the Gaza Strip.

On Oct. 11, he seemed to comment on the Israel-Hamas conflict in his own words.

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“Where are all you tough talking Media Heads that get on TV and social platforms to condemn people who stand by the oppressed??” he wrote on X. “Crimes are being committed against humanity and most of you are silent. Cat got your tongue? Or you’re afraid of actually standing for something real.”

After the Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7, the NBA said in a statement that it and the National Basketball Players Association “mourn the horrific loss of life in Israel and condemn these acts of terrorism. We stand with the people of Israel and pray for peace for the entire region.”