Ben Lepper ’25
Content Warning: Anti-Semitism
Publicity wise, the NBA has had a horrible start to their season. It seems like for every on-the-court story, there are two upsetting off-the-court ones. For example, the Josh Primo situation, or the controversy surrounding former Celtics head coach Ime Udoka. Both of those issues are so complex that I could write an article on either of them. But, there is one storyline that is capturing the attention of NBA fans for all the wrong reasons.
Kyrie Irving has never been a stranger to controversy. Over the years, we’ve seen him boast about his flat-earth ideals, raise a middle finger to Celtics fans in the playoffs, and start drama out of nothing. The guy just loves to instigate, and most of the time, his drama is over fairly quickly, partially because of his skill on the court. But, this time, he hit a nerve that will permanently damage his reputation for however long he remains in the league.
Late last month, Irving shared a documentary called Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America. The documentary features anti-semitism all throughout, and multiple claims that are too upsetting to even write. Screenshots taken from the documentary show anti-Jewish propaganda all throughout. Immediately, Irving faced criticism for posting this, especially in a high-tense American climate following the Kanye West controversy. Now, he did have a chance to make things right by admitting his mistake. Things wouldn’t be perfect, but he’d be able to recover.
Of course, in typical Kyrie fashion, he doubled down. On October 29, he battled with a reporter about whether or not he supported the film in a post-game press conference, firing off quotes like “I’m not going to stand down on anything I believe in” and “I have a whole army around me.” Those quotes sealed his fate, and even though he deleted the documentary’s link the next day, the damage was done.
Despite this, he wasn’t suspended. This caused some questions from NBA fans all over, as the silence was deafening. Why wasn’t Kyrie being punished for his actions? Some people thought that it was the so-called “Superstar treatment,” where star players are treated less harshly due to their popularity, while others thought that the NBA was still gathering information. Either way, it still wasn’t a good look.
Then, the controversy hit its climax. On November 3, NBA commissioner Adam Silver made a statement that he planned to meet with Irving about his actions, expressing severe disappointment. Then, Irving and his team, the Brooklyn Nets, both donated $500,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, in a shallow attempt to save face. And then, Kyrie nailed his coffin by responding to a yes or no question asking if he was anti-semetic with the following quote: “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”
Later that night, Irving was suspended indefinitely without pay by the Brooklyn Nets, and his donation was rejected by the ADL. NBA fans all over the world have been left disgusted by Kyrie’s actions. But, this situation is making everyone ask a similar question: why is Kyrie even still a part of the NBA? In 2021, former Miami Heat player Meyers Leonard was suspended for a week by the NBA for saying an anti-semetic slur whilst playing a video game, and has not played in the NBA since. Where was this urgency in the Kyrie situation? Why is Kyrie still employed by a team, albeit suspended? All over sports, we’ve been seeing preferential treatment towards star players for years, and this is a glaring example of why this can’t continue.
What Kyrie Irving has done is inexcusable. There cannot and should not be any defense or sympathy for him. And, the response to Irving’s actions by his team and the league have been awful. Yes, it’s good that he’s been suspended. But I believe that his suspension should turn into an immediate release and blacklist. If we want to move forward as a society, we cannot let people like Kyrie Irving have a platform. Hate has no place in today’s world.
Image courtesy of NBA.com