Kyrie Irving’s Anti-Semitism Ignored by NBA as Nets Add Coaching Distraction

One has to wonder if Brooklyn and former coach Steve Nash parting ways was just a way to shift the focus from Irving

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets looks on from the bench at Barclays Center.
Kyrie Irving continues to be a headache for the Brooklyn Nets.
Dustin Satloff/Getty

A league that has made it clear it will not stand for racism or misogyny and has ousted multiple owners who were guilty of those sins is for some reason fine with tolerating blatant anti-Semitism and has levied no discipline or sanctions on Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving for promoting a propaganda film and then doubling down on his endorsement of it.

Irving, who promoted the antisemitic film on Twitter and then defended his right to do so in a press conference while refusing to acknowledge the gravity of his actions or the hate-filled content he was aligning himself with, has drawn rebukes from NBA, the Nets and Nike for his actions but hasn’t faced any sort of punishment besides being ripped by some media members. Meanwhile, his peers have remained largely silent and he continues to play ball.

During TNT’s Nets-Bulls broadcast on Tuesday, former NBA player and current color analyst Reggie Miller did an excellent job of pointing out the double standard that appears to be at play in a league that publicly denounces racism but apparently tacitly condones anti-Semitism.

“In years past, this league has been great because the players have led the way and they have strong voices,” Miller said. “When Donald Sterling stepped in it, when Robert Sarver just recently stepped in it, our voices in the basketball community and our players were vocally strong in some type of discipline being handed down — or be gone. “The players have dropped the ball on this case when it’s been one of their own. It’s been crickets. It’s disappointing, because this league has been built on the shoulders of the players being advocates. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And if you’re gonna call out owners, and rightfully so, then you’ve got to call out players as well. You can’t go silent in terms of this for Kyrie Irving. I want to hear the players and their strong opinions as well, just as we heard about Robert Sarver and Donald Sterling.”

Both the NBA and NBAPA issued statements condemning anti-Semitism, but neither mentioned Irving by name. Meanwhile, the Nets and owner Joe Tsai have decried hate speech, but Irving has not been suspended by the team or even benched. Of course, benching Irving might be a bit difficult to do at this juncture as the Nets are in the process of changing coaches after parting ways with Steve Nash yesterday, possibly in an effort to shift the focus away from their outspoken point guard.

Nash’s rumored replacement, Ime Udoka, coached the Celtics last year but was suspended just before the season for violating team rules related to workplace relationships and possibly much worse. Regardless, the Nets have vetted the situation and appear ready to move forward with Udoka to try and salvage a 2-6 start to the season and perhaps shift the focus away from Irving and the unsanctioned firestorm he has created.

Expect that firestorm to get stoked the next time Irving speaks publicly. It may be a while as the Nets did not make Irving available to speak to the media on Monday or Tuesday due to the additional “fuss” having him at the podium might cause, according to general manager Sean Marks.

“I think everybody knows he’s going to have to answer these questions at some point, and he hasn’t sort of shied away in the past,” Marks said. “But I think the last postgame meeting didn’t go well — and we’re not trying to cover it up, I think this is something that needs to be addressed — but let’s address it in the right form and fashion.”

Until then, at least someone has the Duke-educated player’s back.

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