Kyrie Irving Suspended for Sharing Antisemitic Film

NBA superstar Kyrie Irving is serving a suspension of at least five games for his recent antisemitic behavior, which includes sharing a link to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a film that promotes Holocaust denial, and subsequently refusing to apologize for and condemn the antisemitic material he shared. He now faces a hefty list of requirements before being reinstated with the Brooklyn Nets, in addition to the minimum five-game suspension:

→ Apologize and condemn the film he promoted

→ Make a $500,000 donation to anti-hate causes

→ Complete sensitivity training

→ Complete antisemitism training

→ Meet with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Jewish leaders

→ Meet with team owner Joe Tsai to demonstrate an understanding of the situation

In a public statement last week, Irving said, “I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day. 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.” However, despite Nets owner Joe Tsai giving him several days to issue an apology and condemnation of antisemitism, he could not answer “no” when asked if he held antisemitic beliefs, doubling down, “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from,” a reference to the beliefs of Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI) featured in the film he shared. These comments led to his suspension.

After learning he was suspended, Irving took to Instagram to apologize, writing, “To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize. I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti-Semitism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the Documentary I agreed with and disagreed with. I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate.”

Irving has never been shy about sharing unpopular opinions, including his belief that the earth is flat and simultaneously holding to Muslim and BHI ideology. Going against the grain is essentially part of his brand. Yet now, in part due to the extent of the conditions he must complete to return to the Nets, he has actually gained support in reference to the film he shared. Antisemitic sentiments and conspiracy theories about Jewish people controlling the media, money, and world power have been increasingly shared on social media and by public figures. It’s frightening to think that antisemitism could become more mainstream and openly espoused. Naturally, these shameless beliefs draw some comparisons to the conditions in 1930s European society that led to the Holocaust. Though anything of that scale is highly unlikely to result, it still doesn’t bode well for Jewish people trying to live normal lives free of prejudice. Jewish people are already disproportionately victimized by hate crimes, making up 60 percent of U.S. hate crime targets. The rise in openly shared antisemitic discourse can only make things worse. Things could go better if Irving is sincere in his apology, demonstrates truly open-minded thinking while being educated on Jewish history, and uses his global platform to warn others against making the same mistake. His apology was a positive step forward. But the lasting issue is that Irving stirred a pot that Kanye West recently reheated and has been bubbling since long before either celebrity took shots at the Jewish people.