NBA star Kyrie Irving denies promoting antisemitic book

Kyrie Irving has a history of holding views that are considered to be unsubstantiated conspiracy theories or are otherwise scientifically incorrect.

 Oct 29, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) steps over Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) after fighting for a loose ball in the second quarter at Barclays Center. (photo credit: WENDELL CRUZ-USA TODAY SPORTS)
Oct 29, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) steps over Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) after fighting for a loose ball in the second quarter at Barclays Center.
(photo credit: WENDELL CRUZ-USA TODAY SPORTS)

Controversial seven-time NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving appeared on Saturday to defend a position that many have considered to be antisemitic.

Last week, Irving promoted Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a 2015 book, which later became a 2018 film, that purports to demonstrate how black people are the true Israelites and that their identity has been stolen.

Irving has a history of holding views that are unsubstantiated conspiracy theories or are otherwise scientifically incorrect.

He has, for example, expressed the view that the Earth is flat and shared a video of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Recently, Jones has been court-ordered to pay out $1 billion in damages for lying about and defaming the families of children who perished in the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Irving also could not play in the Nets’ home games last season until March because of New York’s ban on unvaccinated people in indoor venues in relation to COVID-19.

 Oct 29, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) argues a call in the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. (credit: WENDELL CRUZ-USA TODAY SPORTS) Oct 29, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) argues a call in the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. (credit: WENDELL CRUZ-USA TODAY SPORTS)

What did Kyrie Irving do that people think was antisemitic?

With the latest incident involving Irving, 30, while there may not be anything necessarily antisemitic about having the religious belief that black people are the chosen people of God, the film that Irving promoted parrots a narrative that belongs to radical black Hebrew Israelism and has been thoroughly denounced as deeply antisemitic.

The narrative espouses that Jewish people are imposters who have usurped the biblical heritage of black people.

At the press conference at Barclays Center in New York City following the Brooklyn Nets defeat to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night, numerous reporters pressed Irving on his sharing of the film on his Twitter account.

Irving, however, denied that posting it on his Twitter constituted promoting it.

“Can you please stop calling it a promotion? What am I promoting?” he asked Nick Friedell, an ESPN reporter.

When Friedell pointed out that Irving posted it, Irving dismissed the objection. He continued by asserting that what he “put out” is equivalent to when Friedell himself “puts things out.”

Friedell responded by stating that his “stuff is not filled with antisemitic stuff.”

Instead of continuing to engage and demonstrate how the two situations are still, indeed, analogous, Irving retreated.

“Let’s move on. Let’s move on. Let’s move on, don’t dehumanize me up here.”

Irving has framed the issue to be that people are calling him antisemitic because he believes that black people are the chosen people.

“Africa is in it, whether we want to dismiss it or not. So, the claims of antisemitism, who are the original chosen people of God? And we go into these religious conversations and it’s a big no-no, I don’t live my way like that.” Irving said.

"I grew up in a melting pot. And I say the melting pot of all races: white, black, red, yellow, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and you see the way I live my life now. I’m not here to be divisive, so they can push their agenda – I don’t want to say ‘they’, because I’m not identifying any one group or race of people – but I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence on my community, and what I post does not mean that I support everything that’s been said, or everything that’s being done, or [that] I’m campaigning for anything. All I do is post things for our people in my community, and those that it’s actually going to impact. Anybody else that has criticism that obviously wasn’t meant for them.

"I grew up in a melting pot. And I say the melting pot of all races: white, black, red, yellow, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and you see the way I live my life now. I’m not here to be divisive, so they can push their agenda – I don’t want to say ‘they’, because I’m not identifying any one group or race of people – but I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence on my community, and what I post does not mean that I support everything that’s been said, or everything that’s being done, or [that] I’m campaigning for anything. All I do is post things for our people in my community, and those that it’s actually going to impact. Anybody else that has criticism that obviously wasn’t meant for them."

Kyrie Irving

“I embrace all walks of life, and you see it on all my platforms. I talk to all races, all cultures, all religions,” he said. “And my response would be, it’s not about educating yourself on what semitism is or what antisemitism is. It’s really about learning the root words, or where these come from, and understanding that this is an African heritage that is also belonging to the people.”

He has also stated that just because he posts something, doesn’t mean that he supports “everything that’s being said or everything is being done.”

However, many others feel that one can’t promote a film to millions of social media followers and then somehow not be associated with a significant part of that film.

Irving’s comments and explanation come after Tsai tweeted his disappointment with the movie Irving decided to share on his social media platforms.

“I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation,” Tsai wrote. “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. This is bigger than basketball.”

The NBA also condemned Irving’s post with a public statement.

Irving denied he did anything wrong because the documentary is available on Amazon Prime Video.

“It’s 2022. It’s on Amazon, a public platform,” Irving said. “Whether you want to watch it or not is up to you. There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being, so don’t treat me any different. You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have [sic] [and say] you cannot post that. Why not? Why not?

“Everybody posts everything else. You saw the word n—-r going up on Twitter, right? I don’t hear uproar over that. I’m not hearing people being divisive of what’s going on or this or that. I’m not comparing the Jews to Blacks. I’m not comparing the whites to Blacks. I’m not doing that. That conversation is dismissive and it constantly revolves around the rhetoric of who are the chosen people of God? I’m not here to argue over a culture or a person or a religion and what they believe. This is what is here. It’s on a public platform. Did I do anything illegal?

Did I do anything illegal? Did I hurt anybody? Did I harm anybody? Am I going out and saying that I hate one specific group of people? So out of all the judgment that people got out of me posting – without talking to me – and I respect what Joe [Tsai] said, but there has a lot to do without ego or pride with how proud I am to be of African heritage but also to be living as a free Black man here in America knowing the historical complexities for me to get here.”

“Did I do anything illegal? Did I hurt anybody? Did I harm anybody? Am I going out and saying that I hate one specific group of people? So out of all the judgment that people got out of me posting – without talking to me – and I respect what Joe [Tsai] said, but there has a lot to do without ego or pride with how proud I am to be of African heritage but also to be living as a free Black man here in America knowing the historical complexities for me to get here.”

Kyrie Irving

In the past, Irving has walked back controversial statements he’s made, but he’s claimed that he won’t back down on this. Whether he will remain firm on that stance remains to be seen.