A week after Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving shared a film full of antisemitic rhetoric to his millions of followers on social media, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed his disappointment in a statement.
“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material," Silver said in his statement. "While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize. I will be meeting with Kyrie in person in the next week to discuss this situation.”
Irving shared a link to "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America," a purported documentary grounded in antisemitism, including baseless material from Adolf Hitler, "The Hidden Tyranny" and "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The film's director denies the Holocaust in a book he published under the same name.
Nets owner Joe Tsai issued a statement in response to Irving's actions on Friday.
"I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation," Tsai wrote. "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."
The NBA's public relations department also issued a statement on Friday that did not directly name Irving.
"Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA's values of equality, inclusion and respect," the NBA's statement read. "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."
In a postgame news conference on Saturday, when Irving was first asked publicly about his intent behind sharing the film, he doubled down, making reference to the contents of the film as "the truth of our world."
"I'm not going to stand down on anything that I believe in," Irving insisted during a contentious six-minute media session. "I'm only going to get stronger, because I'm not alone. I have a whole army around me."
Irving returned to the court on Monday, where a group of fans sitting courtside in Barclays Center wore T-shirts with the phrase "Fight antisemitism." Irving did not meet with reporters on Monday and Tuesday.
"At some point, he will come up here and do media again but I think at this point we don't want to cause more fuss right now, more interaction with people," Nets general manager Sean Marks said on Monday. "Let's let him simmer down and let cooler minds prevail. We need to educate ourselves, educate the whole group and get some direction, seek from the experts, and one of them is certainly the ADL."
The National Basketball Players Association, of which Irving is a vice president, issued a statement on Tuesday that read, "Antisemitism has no place in our society." The statement made no mention of Irving.
On Wednesday, Irving, the Nets and the ADL announced in a joint statement that each will donate $500,000 "toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities."
"I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day," Irving said in the statement. "I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility. I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles. I am a human being learning from all walks of life and I intend to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. So from my family and I, we meant no harm to any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light."
Asked specifically on Thursday if he held antisemitic beliefs, Irving told reporters, "I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from." He was asked by a reporter what that means and offered the same response.
Irving has fallen short of a full-throated apology. Silver, who is Jewish, plans to meet with him next week.
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