Irving garnered significant backlash Thursday when he shared a link to a documentary called "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America," based on a book of the same name by Ronald Dalton Jr. Both the book and movie have been criticized for their antisemitic message.
I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs. The “Anti-Semitic” label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday. I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions.
— Hélà (@KyrieIrving) October 29, 2022
“I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs,” Irving wrote, referring to a belief in all religions. "The ‘Anti-Semitic’ label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday."
He signed the tweet “Hélà,” his Lakota name, which means “Little Mountain.” Irving's late mother was a member of the tribe and lived on the reservation until her adoption at a young age. His late grandmother and great-grandparents also have ties to the reservation.
After sharing the documentary, Irving tweeted “now let me get ready for this business date I have tonight” and “The Light is beginning to Dawn,” bringing heightened scrutiny in the wake of rapper Kanye West’s blatantly antisemitic comments.
According to Rolling Stone, the documentary Irving shared puts forward "ideas in line with more extreme factions of the Black Hebrew Israelites, which have a long history of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and especially antisemitism.”
Kyrie Irving gets combative with reporters after Nets game
When questioned by reporters over his tweets after the game, Irving continuously doubled down and clashed with ESPN reporter Nick Friedell. After Irving said an Alex Jones conspiracy theory he posted on his Instagram account was true" while distancing himself from the radio host's Sandy Hook defamation, Friedell asked him about his "promotion" of the antisemitic movie and book.
Irving rejected the idea that posting videos to his social media accounts (17.5 million followers on Instagram, 4.5 million on Twitter) constituted promoting those videos, then implied the antisemitism of the video didn't matter.
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 (@_Talkin_NBA) October 30, 2022
Kyrie Irving yells "change your life, bro" after @NickFriedell pushes him on the antisemitic rhetoric in the movie. Says "I wish we cared more about Black reproductive rights and all the things that actually matter than what I'm posting."
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) October 30, 2022
Kyrie Irving was displeased by the line of questioning. He doubled down on the movie, which he watched. He also said he's read a lot of books on the subject.
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) October 30, 2022
NBA releases statement condemning hate speech, misspells 'antisemitic'
Hours after Irving's tweet, the NBA released a statement that did not mention the point guard by name, but condemned hate speech and pledged to challenge and refute antisemitic messages.
It took the league two tries to post the statement, as its initial release misspelled the word "antisemitic" as "antisemetic."
The NBA issued the following statement: pic.twitter.com/vuTVhEegeh
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) October 29, 2022
The league's statement was only part of a backlash that has slowly coalesced since Irving posted his tweet on Thursday. That included retired NBA veteran Richard Jefferson, currently working as color commentator for Nets games on the YES Network, who criticized not just the antisemitic video but also Irving's posting of a video from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Richard Jefferson calls out Kyrie Irving on YES broadcast: "...It is disappointing, Kyrie says that he's not antisemitic and these things, but the tweet is still up. The tweet is still up there." #Nets pic.twitter.com/d98Q5rcAjw
— Jennifer X. Williams (@JenXperience) October 30, 2022
"It is disappointing, Kyrie says that he's not antisemitic and these things, but the tweet is still up. The tweet is still up there. Kyrie also earlier in the summer posted Alex Jones, who basically tortured a bunch of families here locally in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook tragedy. He was torturing those families and Kyrie reposted a video from this man.
"It wasn't about that specific thing, but you have to understand how you use your social media has effects and can affect people. If you are insensitive to that, then you are truly endorsing it. So to say that and not take it down, to repost Alex Jones, you are endorsing them."
On Friday, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai expressed public disappointment in Irving, calling the movie "full of anti-semitic disinformation.” He also expressed the desire to sit and talk about the issue with the point guard and remind him that “it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.”
I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation. I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.
— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) October 29, 2022
The Nets also released a statement.
"The Brooklyn Nets strongly condemn and have no tolerance for the promotion of any form of hate speech. We believe that in these situations, our first action must be open, honest dialogue. We thank those, including the [Anti Defamation League], who have been supportive during this time."
Despite the Nets saying they have no tolerance for promoting hate speech in response to Irving, the player was still in the team's starting lineup with no restrictions on Saturday.
The team is currently 1-4, with Irving averaging 29.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.