Kyrie Irving’s recent dilemma presents a damaging catch-22 for Jewish people.
The Brooklyn Nets star has found himself in trouble after resharing a link to “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America," a 2018 film based on a book of the same name. The Google Books description reads that the book “touches on subjects too controversial for most authors to reveal to the people. This book will expose the truths that have been hidden by the powers that be in America.”
Anytime something is prefaced in this way, you know you’re about to be exposed to some horrible takes. The main premise of the movie is that Jewish people are trying to replace Black people and are attempting to cover the “true roots” of where they come from.
When asked if he was an antisemitic individual, Irving responded, “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.” Come on, man. This is horrible logic. He dodged the initial question, refused to denounce the movie and doubled down that he wouldn’t stand down on anything he believed in.
The book and the movie deny the heritage of modern Jews from Israel, actively deny that the Holocaust happened and claim Jews worship Satan. There’s also a quote from Hitler that he never actually said. These conspiracy theories go way back, and have been used as a tool to justify any wrongdoing towards Jews.
After watching part of the movie and reading some of the book, sports writer Pablo Torre took note of an appalling piece of it that claims five major “falsehoods” about Jewish people, none of which hold any truth.
It’s possible Irving didn’t even watch the movie and his goal was to talk about Black heritages but even in that case, antisemitism is the foundation of the piece – you can’t get around that. At the very least, Irving was reckless and ignorant and is fueling a growing trend of harmful dialogue towards Jewish people.
But the issue goes far beyond Irving. While antisemitism is harmful enough coming from one person, Irving’s ability to influence to his fans and anyone who’s paying attention encourages the real danger at hand. Thousands of reactions agreeing with and encouraging Irving’s rhetoric is the scariest part. In this instance, Irving has become an easy icon for antisemites on social media.
Look at Sportscenter’s social media pages and other sports media outlets detailing the situation. All the top replies read something along the lines of “We stand with Kyrie,” “You don’t have to apologize for anything Kyrie” and “It’s not that serious.” The comments each have thousands of likes and replies agreeing with them.
It absolutely is that serious. It’s unlikely that Irving will physically attack any Jewish people, but those who see the film and his statements might. The FBI issued a broad threat warning to synagogues in New Jersey last week, obviously not far from where the Nets play.
There has been plenty of coverage of Irving’s case, but it presents a catch-22. The attention toward the movie has skyrocketed. The more the media covers this incident and does their job in condemning the harmful things Irving has promoted, the more people have their interest piqued in seeing what the movie is all about.
The book also reinforces the conspiracy theory that Jewish people control the media and news networks, which is an antisemitic trope ignited by “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fabricated text from the early 1900s. But again, this is where the issue lies. While media outlets rightfully give this incident a lot of attention, to a lot of people who agree with Irving it’s just “confirmation” that Jewish people control the media.
Nothing can truly be done to solve this. Either it’s ignored and glossed over and thousands, if not millions, of people are able to be swayed by dangerous misinformation with no repercussions, or it’s publicly denounced, but more attention is brought to the movie and the harmful stereotypes are reaffirmed.
Irving was suspended for a minimum of five days for refusing to apologize for sharing the film, and team owner Joe Tsai gave him six tasks he needs to do before he can rejoin the team. He has since apologized, but it’s too little too late. The damage is done and innocent Jewish people have to pay the price.
Christo Siegel is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Christo by tweeting him at @imchristosiegel.