For the first time since a heated postgame press conference Saturday, Kyrie Irving addressed the media Thursday at Brooklyn Nets practice. Irving drew an uproar over the last week in response to his social media posts linking to an antisemitic film.
Despite a statement from NBA commissioner Adam Silver less than an hour prior saying he was disappointed that Irving has not apologized, the Nets guard once again refused to do so.
“I didn’t mean to cause any harm. I’m not the one that made the documentary,” Irving said.
The following was released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/iD3GkJvekR
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) November 3, 2022
Irving instead said he “takes responsibility” for the antisemitic rhetoric in the film.
“I take my responsibility for posting that. Some things that were questionable in there, untrue,” Kyrie Irving said Thursday. “Like I said the first time you guys asked me when I was sitting on that stage, I don’t believe everything that everybody posts. It’s a documentary, so I take my responsibility.”
The film, Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America, endorses several antisemitic tropes. Those include the assertion that Jews have “used five major falsehoods” to “conceal their nature and protect their status and power.” Among the “falsehoods” is that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, so the film traffics in Holocaust denial.
It then continues to quote Adolf Hitler before attributing a fake quote about Jewish control over society to Harold Rosenthal. The fabricated quote was used in a book by documented antisemite Walter White Jr., who made up the interview with Rosenthal in an attempt to push antisemitic conspiracy theories. Irving briefly touched on this when asked which aspects of the film he felt were, in his words, “questionable.”
“I think some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community for sure,” he said. “Some points made in there were unfortunate.”
The Nets addressed the controversy Wednesday in a joint statement with Irving and the Anti-Defamation League. Despite this, the guard came across as mostly unremorseful in his responses Thursday. When asked if he was surprised that his posts hurt so many people, Irving posed a question of his own.
“I can ask a better question, which is: Where were you when I was a kid figuring out that 300 million of my ancestors are buried in America? Where were you guys asking those same questions when I was a kid learning about the traumatic events of my familial history?” he asked. “These same questions that you guys ask, me dealing with it as being a melanated pigmented person, all around the world and dealing with racial biases against my skin color. Demeaning me because of my religious beliefs. And I’m still sitting in this seat standing.
“So I take my full responsibility again, I repeat it, for posting something on my Instagram or Twitter that may have had some unfortunate falsehoods in it,” he continued. “But I also am a human being that’s 30 years old and I’ve been growing up in a country that’s told me that I wasn’t worth anything and I come from a slave class and I come from a people that are meant to be treated the way we’ve been treated every day.”
Despite posing the above line of questioning when asked about his posts, Irving continued to say he is “not here to compare anyone’s atrocities or tragic events” less than a minute later. He then went on to question the “label” that is being pushed on him when asked if he has any antisemitic beliefs.
“I don’t know how the label becomes justified because you guys ask me the same questions over and over again,” he said. “But this is not going to turn into a spin-around cycle. Questions upon questions. I told you guys how I felt. I respect all walks of life and embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit.”
When pressed for a yes-or-no response to the question, Irving replied: “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”
Kyrie Irving is asked if he has any anti-Semitic beliefs: pic.twitter.com/hHI8FFqMbs
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) November 3, 2022
Irving’s actions have drawn a strong response across the NBA, as well as several anti-hate groups and the Jewish community. This includes statements from Nets owner Joe Tsai, the Anti-Defamation League, NBA league office, NBPA, Adam Silver and more. A group of Jewish Nets fans sat courtside during Brooklyn’s game against Indiana Monday wearing “Fight Antisemitism” shirts.
Thursday’s press conference will do little to ease the controversy. The Nets have yet to levy any punishment on Kyrie Irving, and it is unclear whether the league will intervene to that effect. Silver said in his statement Thursday that he plans to meet with Irving in the next week to discuss the situation.