A group of Jews wore shirts reading “Fight Antisemitism” as they sat courtside at the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn to protest Nets guard Kyrie Irving during a game against the Indiana Pacers last week.
A few days earlier, Irving tweeted a link to the film “From Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America!” based on a book by Ronald Dalton, who claims to have been told the truth by a god whom he refers to as the “most high.”
The film castigates Jews as “Satanic” and presents a quote “believed” to have been said by Adolf Hitler in which Hitler reputedly claimed that “The Negroes — they are the true Hebrews” and warned of a plan to move “false white Jews into a state of Israel.”
The film lists five “falsehoods” spread by Jews — including that Jesus was a Jew and that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
In the wake of the Irving controversy, both the film and book shot to best-selling status on Amazon.com, which has resisted pressure to remove them from sale.
Former Boro Park Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Irving should get the boot.
“Throw him off the team,” Hikind told JNS last Tuesday. “It’s been bad in the streets and universities for the last four years and has become even worse now. You know, the blatant anti-Semitism that we are watching now is out of control. What do we do about this? How do we handle this?”
“I don’t want an apology from this guy,” Hikind said. “These are dangerous people, we need to call them out and there need to be consequences.”
New York Post columnist Mike Vacarro noted that Irving has enormous influence on social media, with 4.6 million followers on Twitter and 17.5 million followers on Instagram.
The Nets announced on Nov. 3 that Irving was suspended for at least five games. After that, Irving apologized for the first time in an Instagram post that read: “To all Jewish families and communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain and I apologize.”
He added that he had “no intention to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate hate.” Irving has still not made clear what parts of the film he agrees with and what parts he disagrees with.
On Friday morning, Nets general manager Sean Marks said the team never considered releasing Irving, views the apology as a first step and would like him to meet with Jewish leaders before returning to the court, according to Sports Illustrated. Later on Friday, a number of personalities on ESPN shows said the apology appeared to be both late and insincere.
The Nets have set six conditions for Irving’s return: he must apologize and condemn the film, make a $500,000 donation to an anti-hate cause, complete sensitivity training, complete anti-Semitism training, meet with the ADL and Jewish leaders and meet with team owner Joe Tsai to show he understands the seriousness of the situation. ESPN reported that Irving had ignored texts from the Nets’ owner.
At a press conference, Irving told a reporter that he had seen the film, rhetorically asked whether he had done anything illegal, said tweeting the link was not the same as promotion and told the reporter not to “dehumanize” him.
Rich Eisen, host of “The Rich Eisen Show” on Roku and a Jew with ancestors who were murdered in the Holocaust, took umbrage at that statement.
“You’re dehumanizing me, Kyrie,” Eisen said on his show. “[A] descendant of people who died in gas chambers and got incinerated in gas chambers by Nazis, you’re dehumanizing me by putting on your platform a book and a movie that is filled with anti-Semitic tropes. … When you put it in front of four million people who might not have already heard about it or know about it, you’re promoting it.”
On Friday, Nike suspended its association with Irving and said it won’t be launching the Kyrie 8, his new sneaker. Nike’s statement continued that “we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism.”
Nets owner Tsai’s first reaction to the controversy was to tweet that he was “disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-Semitic disinformation” and that he wanted to meet with the player to make sure he understood what he had done was hurtful.
“The owner will do what he will do,” Holocaust survivor and lecturer Sami Steigmann told JNS three days before Irving’s suspension and apology. “Many young people do not do research and will accept it as true and put it on social media.
“I believe in education. He should be educated. An apology before he understands the subject means nothing,” Steigmann said.