Nets guard Kyrie Irving refused to apologize Thursday for posting a link to an anti-Semitic documentary on his Twitter page last week, but he said there were some things in the documentary he didn’t know he had. didn’t agree.
“I meant no harm,” Irving said after a Nets practice. “I’m not the one who made the documentary.”
When asked which specific points of the documentary he disagreed with, Irving responded vaguely.
“Some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community, of course,” Irving said. “Some of the points raised in there were unfortunate.”
Last week, Irving tweeted a link to the documentary “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which is driven by anti-Semitic tropes about Jews lying about their origins. His false and outlandish claims about Jews include the claim that the Holocaust never happened.
“These lies are unfortunate,” Irving said when asked if he believed the Holocaust happened, despite what the film said. “And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that. I never said that. It didn’t come out of my mouth. I never tweeted it. I have never liked anything like it. So the Holocaust itself is a meaningful event for a large group of people who suffered something that could have been avoided.
On Sunday, Irving deleted the Twitter post that included the documentary link, but he hadn’t spoken publicly since Saturday. That night, at a postgame press conference, Irving argued with a reporter about whether he was promoting the documentary by posting it on Twitter.
In recent days, the NBA and its players’ union have released statements condemning anti-Semitism without naming Irving. Nets owner Joe Tsai said in a tweet that he was “disappointed” with Irving and would speak to him.
In a statement late Wednesday, Irving and the Nets said they would each donate $500,000 to unspecified causes and organizations that combat hate in their communities. The statement was released jointly by Irving, the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit organization that fights anti-Semitism. When asked Thursday if he had met with the Anti-Defamation League, Irving said he was told the organization wanted a meeting and “we handled it.”
Irving did not apologize in Wednesday’s statement, but he said he takes responsibility for his position.
On Thursday morning, less than an hour before Irving’s speech, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed disappointment that Irving had not “issued an unqualified apology and specifically denounced the despicable content and damaging content in the film he has chosen to publicize”. Silver said he plans to meet Irving next week.
Irving spoke to reporters for about six minutes Thursday before a member of the Nets public relations team wrapped up the press conference. Irving spent half that time answering a question asking if he was surprised his Twitter post was hurting people.
“I think I can ask a better question which is, where were you when I was a kid to figure out that 300 million of my ancestors are buried in America?” said Irving, who has African American and Native American heritage. “Where have you guys been asking these same questions when I was a kid learning about the traumatic events in my family history and where I am proud to come from? And why am I proud to be here?
When Irving was asked if he had any anti-Semitic beliefs, he replied that he respected all walks of life.
“I can’t be an anti-Semite if I know where I’m from,” Irving said when asked to answer the question with a “yes” or “no.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, chastised Irving for his response.
“The answer to the question – ‘Do you hold any anti-Semitic beliefs’ is always an unequivocal ‘NO’,” Greenblatt said in a Twitter post. “We took @KyrieIrving at his word when he said he was taking responsibility, but today he broke his promise. Kyrie clearly has a lot of work to do.
The NBA has sanctioned players for hate speech. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards was fined $40,000 in September for using homophobic language in a video he posted on social media.
In March 2021, the league fined Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat $50,000 and suspended him for a week for using an anti-Semitic slur while playing live video games. Miami also suspended him for two days while the NBA investigates. The Heat then quickly traded Leonard to Oklahoma City, who released him about a week later. No team has signed him since then.
The Nets declined to say if they plan to discipline Irving. The NBA did not respond to questions about whether Irving will face disciplinary action.
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