NBA: Nets suspend Irving after anti-Semitic movie post

The Brooklyn Nets have suspended Kyrie Irving for at least five games. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK – The Brooklyn Nets suspended guard Kyrie Irving indefinitely on Thursday, calling him “unfit to be associated” with the team because he had declined to say he has no anti-Semitic views in the week since he posted a link on Twitter to a film with hateful claims about Jewish people.

“Such failure to disavow anti-Semitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organisation and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team,” the National Basketball Association side said in a statement.

Irving had declined to apologise despite a fierce backlash but, late on Thursday night, hours after the Nets suspended him, he relented in an Instagram post.

“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 apologise,” he said in the post.

The Nets, who parted ways with coach Steve Nash on Tuesday after a disappointing start to their season, said Irving would be suspended without pay for at least five games and “until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct”.

The suspension comes at a fraught moment for Jews in the US, as the FBI warned on Thursday there was a credible threat to synagogues in New Jersey, a state that lies just across the harbour from the New York City borough of Brooklyn, which has one of the densest populations of Jews in the world.

The controversy follows another generated by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was suspended by social media platforms in October for posts that online users condemned as anti-Semitic.

On Thursday, before Irving was suspended, he did not apologise for his post but said there were some things in the film that he did not agree with.

“I didn’t mean to cause any harm,” the seven-time All-Star said after a practice session. “I’m not the one that made the documentary.”

When asked what specific points in the film he did not agree with, he was vague. “Some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community, for sure,” said the 30-year-old. “Some points made in there that were unfortunate.”

The team said in the suspension announcement that they were “dismayed” that Irving did not “acknowledge specific hateful material in the film”.

On Oct 27, Irving posted a link on Twitter to the film Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America, which is driven by anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish people lying about their origins.

Its false and outlandish claims about Jews include the assertion that the Holocaust never happened.

“Those falsehoods are unfortunate,” Irving said when asked if he believed that the Holocaust occurred, despite what the movie said. “And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that... It’s not come out of my mouth. I never tweeted it. I never liked anything like it.

“So, the Holocaust in itself is an event that means something to a large group of people that suffered something that could have been avoided.”

On Sunday, Irving deleted the tweet that included the film’s link.

That night, during a post-game news conference, Irving argued with a reporter about whether he was promoting the movie by posting about it on Twitter.

In his apology on Thursday, Irving said he “initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labelled 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”.

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In the past week, the NBA and its players’ union released statements condemning anti-Semitism without naming Irving.

Nets owner Joe Tsai said he was “disappointed” with Irving and would speak to him.

In a statement released with the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday, Irving and the Nets said they would each donate US$500,000 (S$710,000) to unspecified causes and organisations who combat hate in their communities.

When asked on Thursday if he had met the Anti-Defamation League, Irving said he was told that the organisation wanted a meeting and “we handled it”.

Irving had said in his statement on Wednesday that he took responsibility for his post.

On Thursday morning, less than an hour before Irving spoke to reporters at practice, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he planned to meet Irving.

He expressed disappointment that the player had not “offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicise”.

Irving’s social media posts are not the first time that he has courted controversy in the NBA.

In October, he was criticised by NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for sharing a video from far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Last season, he played in just 29 of the Nets’ 82 regular-season games after refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine despite a mandate by the city of New York.

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