NBA superstar insists he is not antisemitic, despite movie link he tweeted

Kyrie Irving says he “embraces all walks of life”; NBA and team owner criticize the post while Kanye West approvingly calls Irving a “real one.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Basketball superstar Kyrie Irving insisted Saturday night that he “embraces all walks of life” but refused to remove a tweet he wrote in which he promoted a book-turned-movie with deeply antisemitic themes, even as backlash has grown over the post.

Irving had provided a link Thursday to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, which among other antisemitic tropes accuses Jews of playing a lead role in the slave trade. It also promotes the theme that blacks are the real, biblically-ordained Chosen People but the Jews usurped their position in a “cover-up” fostered by all three major monotheistic religions.

This is a belief spouted by the Black Hebrew Israelites, an extremist group that has been behind several attacks on Jews in the U.S. in recent years.

The Brooklyn Nets guard said he shares that religious belief but denied its link to antisemitism or that he was against anyone.

“I embrace all walks of life, and you see it on all my platforms,” he said during a press conference after a team loss at home. “I talk to all races, all cultures, all religions. And my response would be, it’s not about educating yourself on what semitism is or what antisemitism is. It’s really about learning the root words, or where these come from, and understanding that this is an African heritage that is also belonging to the people.”

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In a somewhat contradictory manner, he  denied that he was “promoting” the book, in the words of his critics, just because he posted the link, and said that he has the right to tweet about anything, just as anyone else.

“It’s 2022. It’s on Amazon, a public platform,” he said. “Whether you want to watch it or not is up to you. There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being, so don’t treat me any different.”

He dismissed the idea put to him by the reporters that perhaps he shouldn’t post things that could be construed as promoting hate since he has such a huge number of admirers online (17.5 million followers on Instagram and 4.5 million on Twitter).

While admitting that “I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence on my community,” he said he did nothing wrong.

“Did I do anything illegal? Did I hurt anybody? Did I harm anybody? Am I going out and saying that I hate one specific group of people?” he asked in a rapid-fire series of rhetorical questions.

Nets owner Joe Tsai condemned the original post on Friday, tweeting, “I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of antisemitic 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. This is bigger than basketball.”

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The NBA also denounced the post, saying in a statement, “Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion and respect. We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions.”

Neither team nor league made any mention of any practical consequences for the star player’s words.

Meanwhile, Kanye “Ye” West, a black rapper and fashion designer who has been embroiled in business troubles ever since he posted and then doubled down on a recent series of antisemitic statements, sent out a message of support to Irving. Posting the player’s picture on his Instagram account Sunday, he wrote, “There’s some real ones still here.”