How Kyrie Irving’s Alleged Antisemitism Disappeared

Kyrie Irving’s antisemitism scandal | Image Credit: Forward.com
Kyrie Irving’s antisemitism scandal | Image Credit: Forward.com

The Kyrie Irving case demonstrates how selective the Jewish community can be in denouncing antisemitism.

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How many of you recall seeing a DVD posted by one of the most well-known NBA players that said Jews had faked the Holocaust in order to deceive the world into thinking they were God’s chosen people?

The rapper Ye (previously known as Kanye West) made antisemitic remarks about the same time that Kyrie Irving was promoting “Hebrews to Negroes,” yet the reaction was only momentarily severe.

Irving alternatively played coy, claiming that sending the link wouldn’t amount to endorsing it, and he heightened tensions by implying that, contrary to what the film said, Africans were the true Jews. Irving denied that he could be antisemitic.

After being suspended, he gave to the Anti-Defamation League, continued to make divisive remarks, had his gift knocked down, ultimately apologised and went back to court, and then, months after being transferred from the Brooklyn Nets to Dallas, removed the social media post that included his apology.

As he leads the Mavericks to a postseason run, worries about his purported antisemitism have essentially vanished.

My colleague Louis Keene, who covered the initial dispute, clarified, “It doesn’t come up unless Kyrie Irving does something nice.” When it occurs, Irving’s hordes of youthful admirers will lament the previous attempts to cancel him.

Louis just wrote a post on his chats with Jewish Mavericks supporters who, like him or not, want Irving to be successful. Ben Calmenson, a 28-year-old who winced when Iriving donned a keffiyeh to a recent press conference but promptly justified it, remarked, “I’ve forgotten about the antisemitism.”

As he has done throughout the playoffs and once more against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, I still cringe when I see Irving triumph. However, I’m not suggesting that he ought to have been expelled from the league for showing a movie that suggests Jews are to responsible for the misery of Black people. For the most part, he comes out as a strange man who questions whether the planet is round or flat and doesn’t believe in vaccinations.

Louis told me, “There are a lot of young fans that view Kyrie Irving as an iconoclastic figure, and their susceptibility to conspiracy theories is just part of it.” They basically view him as a really kind guy who is a little bit different because “he’s incredibly philanthropic — even by the norms of professional sportsmen — and he’s quite outspoken on social issues.”

Kyrie Irving often decorates his shoes with handwritten messages, including “Liberation for all." | Image Credit: forward.com
Kyrie Irving often decorates his shoes with handwritten messages, including “Liberation for all.” | Image Credit: forward.com

The story of Kyrie Irving demonstrates how selective the Jewish community can be in denouncing antisemitism. Following Amazon’s CEO Andy Jassy’s refusal to get the antisemitic video removed from its Prime Video service, the American Jewish Committee and other prominent groups soon abandoned their campaign.

The current state of left-wing students on prestigious college campuses is a source of worry. Irving may not have been asked about “Hebrews to Negroes” as quickly, and his social media post calling Israelis “murderous oppressors” might have drawn more attention, had he been playing basketball thirty years earlier, when Jewish organisations were focusing on how alleged “Black antisemitism” threatened American Jews.

Additionally, Mark Cuban, a man Louis referred to as a “Jewish community legend,” owns the basketball franchise that Irving plays for, which he is now selling to Miriam Adelson, the late Jewish casino billionaire and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson’s wife.

Irving is also well-known. There is some influence for Jewish leaders in Congress as well as on college campuses. However, it’s quite difficult to punish celebrities for remarks that are essentially considered impolite. Louis said, “They realised their authority is kind of restricted.”

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