Kyrie Irving fan wearing 'fight antisemitism' shirt hopes Net star's apology is 'beginning of a positive path forward'

Kyrie Irving points near group with fight antisemitism shirts
Kyrie Irving points near group with fight antisemitism shirts

Michael Dube has watched Kyrie Irving play basketball for a long time. The first time he saw Irving was in northern New Jersey, more than 10 years ago. Irving was a high school phenom at the time.

Like most people who see Irving with a ball in his hands, Dube was mesmerized.

“He is a magician,” Dube says. “He’s a wizard at what he does, truly.”

Dube followed Irving through his year at Duke and throughout his NBA career. He’s always loved watching him play.

“It’s a pleasure to watch an incredibly talented player like Kyrie,” he said.

So when Dube sat courtside for Nets-Pacers last Monday, he was excited about seeing one of his favorite players in an intimate setting.

But he also had a message to spread:

Dube and the others in his row wore t-shirts with the term “FIGHT ANTISEMITISM” displayed across the chest.

“I have only love for Kyrie Irving,” he said that night. “I was standing up for something that I thought was important, something that I believe in. But there was no hate from me in any way.”

So much has happened since Dube and his group sat courtside for the Nets’ win over Indiana.

Steve Nash was fired. Irving, the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League partnered to support anti-hate groups with a $1 million pledge.

Irving spoke to the media for a second time about his post linking to a book that contained antisemitic, hateful material. He said that he cannot be antisemitic because he knows where he comes from and distanced himself from the antisemitic material in the documentary.

But Irving didn’t state, unequivocally, that he has no antisemitic beliefs. And he didn’t acknowledge the specific hateful material in the film he shared on social media.

So the Nets suspended Irving without pay for at least five games, stating that he was unfit to be associated with the team.

“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team,” the organization said.

The Anti-Defamation League also rejected Irving’s $500,000 donation.

Then, late Thursday night, Irving wrote on Instagram that he was "deeply sorry" to all Jewish families and communities "that are hurt and affected from my post.” He said that he initially reacted out of emotion because he was unjustly labeled as an antisemite.

“I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all,” Irving wrote.

Dube, an Orthodox Jew, has seen all of the developments of the past week. His views on the topic are the same today as they were Monday night, when he was courtside wearing a FIGHT ANTISEMITISM shirt. He hopes it is an opportunity to build bridges, rather than tear them down.

“My hope is that Kyrie is being sincere and this is the beginning of a positive path forward. We want to create open and honest dialogue between the communities. This is a time to build bridges and promote tolerance and respect.

“But it’s critical that those with large platforms understand the enormity of their influence and use their voice responsibly. Words matter. And consequences are real.

“I would love nothing more than to sit down with Kyrie and discuss the similarities between our communities and how we can work to support each other rather than tear each other down. This is a time for love, not hate.”

For Dube, these aren’t empty words. He’s been working tirelessly to support his community and build bridges for a long time.

Dube, 50, helped found the charity Sharing Seats, which provides tickets to sick and underprivileged children to events. The tickets are donated and sponsored.

Sharing Seats has been hosting families and children at events since 2009.

“We had 12 kids from foster home situations in a suite (at Barclays Center for last Monday’s Nets-Pacers game),” Dube says. “We just want to provide positive experiences. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them.”

The idea for the charity sparked in 2010, when two Jewish men from Teaneck died tragically when they were hit by a falling tree while walking home from synagogue. Someone from the community reached out to Dube to see if he could help. He reached out to people in his network and provided Yankee tickets and an autographed David Wright bat to the children of the men who died.

“Sports has the ability to transform people who are going through a tough time,” Dube says.

Dube’s passion for the charity is obvious. At Barclays Center on Monday, he sparked a conversation with a disabled fan seated nearby. He has been in touch with the man and will send him to a game via Sharing Seats.

“I’m just making the impact I can, while I can,” Dube says.

He also builds bridges through his profession. Dube and his wife, Rachel, founded Elite Method, a private coaching program that helps children build confidence and social skills through sports and physical fitness.

“My career and calling are aligned,” Dube says. “It is such a blessing.”

That alignment led Dube to Barclays Center on Monday night. A season-ticket holder Dube knows through his network offered he and his son courtside seats. The season-ticket holder wanted Dube, his son Jacob, and the rest of the group to wear “FIGHT ANTISEMITISM” t-shirts.

Dube didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“I’m proud of who I am and what I represent,” he says.

Photos of Dube and the group spread quickly through social media. A picture of the fans was on the back cover of The New York Post the next day.

Dube hopes that momentum from that night can help create awareness. He doesn’t know what’s in Irving’s heart, but he didn’t feel that the guard was being sarcastic when he greeted the group during the game. His son Jacob found Irving’s gesture to be genuine. He remains hopeful that Irving can be a catalyst for an open dialogue, one that leads to a greater understanding.

“We’re all fallible and everyone has different chapters in their story,” he says. “I am hopeful that the next chapter for all of us will include respect and tolerance for all of humanity. We have a very short time on this planet to make a difference. Let’s all try to write a story that we can all be proud of.”