Kyrie Irving: NBA hero’s suspension marks dramatic fall from grace

JThe apologies materialized around midnight but by then it was too late. Kyrie Irving had been suspended by his NBA team after a week of widespread dismay but no contrition over his Twitter post amplifying an anti-Semitic film.

The Brooklyn Nets ruled the point guard out for at least five games on Thursday and said he was “currently unfit to be associated with” the franchise. It’s a new low for one of the most talented players of his generation, a rapidly falling star who will likely be remembered more as a purveyor of offensive line misinformation than for his brilliance on the pitch.

Irving, who has about 17.6 million followers on Instagram and 4.6 million on Twitter, posted a link to a 2018 film, Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, on October 27. He then deleted the post.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the film “is a three-plus-hour effort to ‘prove’ the Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) belief that some people of color, including black Americans, are the true descendants of Biblical Israelites” and “promotes beliefs commonly found among anti-Semitic and extremist factions of the BHI movement, including claims that modern Jews are impostors who have stolen black religious heritage.”

Irving, the Nets and the ADL released a joint statement Wednesday in which the player and team said they would each donate $500,000 to organizations fighting hate and bigotry. The player said he opposes “all forms of hatred and oppression” and does not “believe everything said in the documentary is true”.

However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he was “disappointed” that Irving had not “offered an unqualified apology” and that he planned to meet with him. Irving addressed reporters on Thursday, inflaming the situation when he deflected questions and stopped again before an unequivocal apology and full denunciation of the film.

He suggested that the media should instead focus on the American history of slavery and racial oppression. “Where were you when I was a child to realize that 300 million of my ancestors are buried in America?” the 30-year-old said, adding, “I grew up in a country that told me I was worthless and came from a slave class… I can’t be an anti-Semite if I know where I come from”.

Seeing the lack of remorse, the ADL said it do not accept Irving’s gift. The word “sorry” was finally rolled out Thursday night when Irving released a statement regretting his push for “false anti-Semitic statements.” He wrote: “To all Jewish families and communities who are hurt and affected by my message, I am deeply sorry for causing you pain and I apologize. I initially reacted out of emotion at having been unfairly labeled an anti-Semite.

Nets general manager Sean Marks told reporters Friday that to return to the team, Irving will need to take “corrective measures,” including counseling and meetings with Jewish community leaders. It was all too little too late for Nike, which cut ties with Irving on Friday and canceled the launch of its signature shoe.

In Irving’s mind, at least, he’s an iconoclastic freethinker and seeker of truth who won’t blindly accept conventional wisdom or take shelter in the comforting refuge of herd mentality on his journey. towards a deeper understanding of culture, history, politics and genetics. forces that shaped it. “I’m just here to keep exposing things that our world keeps putting in the dark. I am a light. I am a beacon,” he said Thursday.

To his growing legion of critics, he is a pseudo-intellectual peddler of vile or silly conspiracy theories that risk doing serious damage. “He’s a flashpoint guy now…like Kanye, another unserious person who gets a lot of attention,” broadcaster Bomani Jones said on his podcast, The Right Time.

“The reason Kyrie really has to go is that whether he believes it or not, there’s a fair argument that what he did was dangerous, isn’t there? He’s a person. influential organization that disseminates ideas likely to foment violence.

Kanye West, now known as Ye, tweeted references to Irving on Thursday in solidarity with the player. The rapper and mogul is facing a costly backlash after making a series of anti-Semitic comments that are part of a wider and alarming trend of openly hateful behavior in the United States by prominent figures, including many right-wing politicians, as well as members of the general public. .

Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States hit an all-time high in 2021, and the FBI warned Thursday of a “broad threat to synagogues” in New Jersey (the agency said Friday the alleged source had been interviewed and did not was more of a danger). The phrase “Kanye is right about the Jews” was projected onto a football stadium in Florida last week and posted on a freeway overpass by white supremacists in Los Angeles.

“There is a real effect of anti-Semitism online,” Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a non-profit group, told The Guardian. “It makes people hate Jews and seek to harm them.”

Irving has long sought to learn more about his heritage and examine his identity. Born in Australia to American parents – his father played professional basketball in Melbourne – he grew up in New Jersey.

He left Duke University to enter the 2011 NBA draft and was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning the league’s 2012 Rookie of the Year award and becoming NBA champion in 2016, including thanks to a crucial three points which helped his team. defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the Finals. He also won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA that year.

Aiming to step out of the shadow of LeBron James, he sought a trade in 2017 and moved to the Boston Celtics. His time there was hampered by injury and he joined Brooklyn as a free agent in 2019.

He has Native American roots through his mother, who died when he was four. He was honored in 2018 with a christening ceremony in North Dakota by the Standing Rock Sioux, whose symbol is tattooed on the back of his neck – one of about twenty tattoos on his body, including the name of his wife. mother and the logo of the 1990s sitcom, Friends.

Irving is also the NBA’s highest-profile vaccine refuser. His rejection of the Covid-19 shot caused him to miss 35 home games in 2021-22 due to a job vaccine mandate in New York. The goaltender, who is in the final year of a contract worth $36.5 million this season, said his decision not to accept the vaccine cost him a four-year extension of a worth more than $100 million.

“This forced vaccine/pandemic is one [of] greatest HUMAN RIGHTS violations in history,” he tweeted in September. That month, he shared a video from 2002 about a government conspiracy theory called the ‘New World Order’ embraced by Infowars host Alex Jones, who was recently ordered by a court to pay $1 billion. damages for preposterous lies about the Sandy Hook massacre.

In 2017, Irving said on a podcast that “the Earth is flat”. He told The New York Times that he “wanted to open up the conversation, like, ‘Hey man, do your own research to find out what you want to believe in.'” He said he wasn’t sure if the Earth was round or flat and thought it was an interesting point of debate: an example of false balance presenting itself as open-mindedness, as if being against -current and skeptical was license to embrace both sides. and live in your own reality.

Low-budget, homemade and previously obscure, Hebrews to Negroes was number one on Amazon’s list of best-selling documentaries on Friday afternoon. The book version was the top-selling in the retailer’s “Christian Education” section, comprising four of the first five along with its sequels.

“We know that algorithms promote things that get high engagement,” Ahmed said. With re-tweets and other insertions into online feeds, “This is potentially seen by hundreds of millions of people beyond its subscribers,” he added. “The damage someone with that many followers can do is quite uncontrollable.”

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