The irony of Kyrie Irving, a leader who wants influence but won't be challenged

Kyrie Irving wants all of the influence that comes with leadership, yet none of the responsibility and none of the actual education on serious matters.

There’s no back down, no backup and even if he would like to believe so, nobody worth a damn is backing him up publicly. His words and actions are getting to the point where the Brooklyn Nets will have to seriously consider telling him his basketball services are no longer needed.

Whether Irving likes it or not, parroting Alex Jones conspiracy theories while Jones is being sued for hundreds of millions of dollars for claiming the Sandy Hook tragedy in fact wasn’t one, places Irving in the crosshairs of everything Jones stands for.

Whether Irving likes it or not, placing a link to a “Hebrews to Negroes” video on Amazon Prime — a video nearly four hours long, mind you — means it’s a tacit endorsement. And knowing Irving, who can guarantee he watched the entire 3-hour, 28-minute video that spouted off antisemitic rhetoric under the alleged guise of “Black Empowerment”?

He talks out of both sides of his mouth with no regard to who’s hurt or contesting his sentiments.

On one hand, Irving said he’s in a “unique position” to influence his community but then said in the same media session, “What I post does not mean that I support everything that’s being said or everything that’s being done or I’m campaigning for anything.”

Remember, Irving is the man who visited a Native American reservation during the pandemic, apparently to show support and connect with his heritage from his late mother’s side, but did so unmasked and unvaccinated — in front of a crowd that was more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the nation’s average.

The irony of someone like Irving, who lives to challenge everyone — defenses, his coaches, teammates, science, sanity — but can’t stand to be challenged. He wants the privilege of the very thing he claims to rail against. He wants the privilege to have his words and beliefs taken as fact without having to show his work.

Honestly, there is no work.

There is no critical thought. A shallow understanding of any topic for any gullible being who will be swallowed into the rabbit holes of YouTube videos and conspiracy theories.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving isn't backing down from the antisemitic views he has posted on social media. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving isn't backing down from the antisemitic views he has posted on social media. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Nobody is saying everything we’ve been taught in history books is irrefutable. “America” wasn’t just stumbled upon by Christopher Columbus and the history of Black people didn’t begin on slave ships, nor were Black people freed by the sheer benevolence of white people.

Black empowerment and getting from under the boot of society is a battle that’s been fought for decades, addressed in this space and others and will continue to be.

But that’s not the topic at hand here, and that’s not what Irving is trying to imply. In his heart he may mean well, but he’s got to do better.

At some point, meaning well doesn’t hold weight.

At some point, he has to be accountable.

The NBA denouncing his sentiments and Nets owner Joe Tsai expressing his disappointment only makes Irving dig deeper in his approach. The more conventional institutions that condemn Irving, the closer Irving believes he is to some secret truth only a select few have access to.

It’s always him, he’s the one with the answers, he’s the one smarter than everyone else while the rest of us — from the educated to the street smart — are naive and unwilling to bask in the light he provides.

As a Black man, he should know the value of wanting to be heard. But refuses to listen when he’s the one who is misinformed, spreading his “truth” virus like there’s no vaccine, coughing out nonsense unshielded by a mask. He doesn’t want to hear anyone, he’s unwilling to see the value of being educated on terms other than his own.

We spent an entire span where apparently Black people were finally being listened to and heard. It was accompanied by video evidence of mistreatment and energy of support from other segments of society.

Black people said, “This is how we feel.” It was tear-stained, sometimes angry, sometimes wild but most of all, it was clear. And Black people were telling those who’d easily dismissed the cries for decades, who didn’t have the depth or desire to listen to that perspective or experience, what life really was like.

For Irving to take on the role as the non-hearing individual in the face of those who claimed “this is hateful” is quite grand — and possibly dangerous.

“I’m not going to stand down on anything that I believe in,” Irving said Saturday night. “I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me.”

What is that army? Is it Kanye West who has similarly spewed antisemitic words and recently, posted a picture of Irving on his Instagram in support, apparently, of Irving’s recent behavior?

The people Irving is being linked with aren’t exactly what society would call intellectuals or even respected contrarians.

These people are being sued and only supported by those with an agenda that seems counter to Irving’s actual being — but, of course, he doesn’t see that and isn’t in the mood to listen.

Irving spent just enough time at Duke to believe he’s some type of informed intellectual, but not enough time to actually be informed. Just like Irving spent just enough time around a winning culture in Cleveland to help the Cavaliers win a championship but actually brought very little with him in the years and stops since.

It was merely something he was a part of as opposed to something that’s in him, that he developed from, matured from and humbled himself in a way that’s sustainable.

Sure, there are moments of clarity and it gives his believers hope that there’s something true and substantive beyond the kooky statements, disappearing acts and general nonsense. But there’s rarely been a connective thread between his words and his actions, rarely enough consistency for him to lean on.

And remember, he so desperately wants to be known as a leader. Of his team. Of his community. The young player who initially was one of the first to wear the “I can’t breathe” shirts in the aftermath of the Eric Garner killing doesn’t exist in the same form.

Just like the Kanye West from his groundbreaking first album “College Dropout” is long gone, the Irving who most people said means well is a long ways away from the figure we see now.

And it’s high time the excuses for his behavior be stopped before something dangerous truly happens.