LeBron James and Amazon, despite their power, take weak stances against antisemitism | Opinion

The antisemitic movie "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America," which Nets star Kyrie Irving fronted, leading to his minimum five-game suspension and national condemnation (except from many NBA and WNBA players – more on that in a moment), remarkably is still available on Amazon.

The American Jewish Committee on Nov. 4 asked Amazon to pull the movie. But as of Friday, it's still there. You can rent it for $11.99 or buy it for the great low price of $49.99. The book the movie is based on is also for sale. There are actually three volumes, and Amazon marks the third as a best seller in the "religious intolerance and persecution category."

This may seem like it's not related, but it is. LeBron James, perhaps the most powerful voice in American sports, after initially condemning Irving, on Thursday said the punishment for the Nets star was too harsh. For someone so incredibly intelligent, worldly and empathetic, it was a staggeringly weak thing to say.

"I told you guys that I don’t believe in sharing hurtful information," James wrote in a tweet. "And I’ll continue to be that way but Kyrie apologized and he should be able to play. That’s what I think. It’s that simple. Help him learn- but he should be playing. What he’s asked to do to get back on the floor I think is excessive IMO. He’s not the person that’s being portrayed of him. Anyways back to my rehab session."

What we're seeing is that all these days and weeks after Kanye West's antisemitic rants, followed by Irving's comments, people still aren't getting it, and that includes one of the great athletes of our time, and a multi-billion dollar company.

Kyrie Irving reacts during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center on Oct. 19, 2022.
Kyrie Irving reacts during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center on Oct. 19, 2022.

"Amazon has a critical role to play in ensuring Americans do not consume hate-filled propaganda and misinformation," wrote the American Jewish Committee, one of the nation's largest Jewish organizations, after launching a petition urging Amazon to remove the film. "We are grateful that, as recently as January of this year, Amazon removed more than twenty Nazi propaganda films and other antisemitic content to stop the spread of hate. We urge you to swiftly take action and remove this film and book from your platform."

There's a connectedness here that is unmistakable. One of the biggest stars in sports and one of the biggest companies in the world are taking incredibly weak stances against antisemitism, despite having so much power.

The Jewish community is under attack, and hate crimes against that community are on the rise. The FBI last week warned synagogues and Jewish leaders across New Jersey there were credible threats to synagogues. An arrest this week followed that warning. This is a direct result of a rising cesspool of white nationalism, but indifference can be just as much of a killer.

I say all of this fully aware of the sometimes-double standard of the repercussions of anti-Blackness vs. the repercussions when other groups are attacked. This is where Brett Favre enters the chat. His alleged plundering and obsceneness in taking state funds intended for the poorest residents of Mississippi has all but been forgotten by the media. I promise you. I see this.

OPINION: Kyrie Irving and Kanye West didn't just say hurtful things. They told ugly lies about Jews.

MORE: Nike suspends relationship with Kyrie Irving: 'We are deeply saddened and disappointed'

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That doesn't excuse what has been, at best, a baffling reaction from James and others. Or a lack of reaction. Current NBA players have mostly been silent. WNBA players, who aren't just athletes but are among the national leaders fighting oppression and for democracy, have also been mostly silent on antisemitism.

James' statement is the most frustrating because what Irving has been asked to do is extremely minimal, as pointed out by SB Nation:

1. Issue an apology for posting a link to the movie Oct. 27, condemn the harmful and false content and make clear that he does not have anti-Jewish beliefs.

2. Complete the anti-hate causes that Irving, the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League agreed upon in their joint release Nov. 2 — including a $500,000 donation toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in communities.

3. Complete sensitivity training created by the Nets.

4. Complete antisemitic/anti-hate training designed by the Nets.

5. Meet with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, as well as Jewish community leaders in Brooklyn.

6. After completing 1 to 5, meet with Nets owner Joe Tsai and lead franchise officials and demonstrate the lessons learned, and that the gravity of the harm caused in the situation is understood, and provide assurances that this type of behavior will not be repeated.

This isn't too much to ask in any way. It's almost embarrassingly minor. I have no clue what James is talking about when he says it's too harsh.

Irving spent days defending his actions, and speaking about the movie is what helped make it (and the book) sell so well on Amazon.

Tsai stated on Friday that he and his wife met with Irving and his family. "We spent quality time to understand each other, and it’s clear to me that Kyrie does not have any beliefs of hate towards Jewish people or any group," Tsai said. "The Nets and Kyrie, together with the NBA and NBPA, are working constructively toward a process of forgiveness, healing and education."

Tsai can believe that, but Irving's actions before he suddenly changed his views (mostly after sponsors started bailing) don't match what Tsai is saying. Not to mention his apology was made immediately after he was suspended.

What I think some people are missing – and I'm not speaking about the hardcore racists who can burn in hell, I'm talking about the people who consider themselves good people – is how much pain that indifference or excusing can cause.

James is a good human being who is an example of how people should live their lives, but his statement shows a level of weakness we're not used to seeing from him.

The same with Amazon. In the end, they don't get it.

Follow Mike Freeman on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LeBron James and Amazon take weak stances against antisemitism