Kyrie Irving said Saturday that he embraces all religions, defiantly defending his right to publish whatever he believes after the Brooklyn Nets owner said he was disappointed that Irving appeared to support an anti-Semitic movie.
“We are in 2022. History can’t be hidden from anybody, and I’m not a divisive person when it comes to religion,” Irving said during a tense postgame news conference. “I embrace all walks of life.”
Nets owner Joe Tsai said Friday that he was disappointed that Irving supported a movie “based on a book full of anti-Semitic misinformation.” The Nets star guard tweeted a link to the movie Jew Is Black: Wake Up Black America on Thursday. The synopsis on Amazon states that the film “reveals the true identity of the children of Israel.”
“The organization talked to Kyrie about it,” Nets coach Steve Nash said before their loss at Indiana, without elaborating on what that meant.
But none of that will stop Irving from sharing what he wants to share.
“I’m not going to give up what I believe in,” he said. “I will only get stronger because I am not alone. There’s a whole army around me.”
Irving said he understood Tsai’s position, but was quick to say he didn’t do anything harmful, adding that just because he writes about something doesn’t necessarily mean he endorses it.
“Did I do something illegal? Did I offend anyone?’ Irving said. “Did I hurt anyone? Am I going to come out and say that I hate one particular group of people?”
But he went far enough for the Nets and the NBA to come out against hate speech.
Tsai and the Nets quickly responded to the latest issue raised by Irving, who previously supported the idea of a flat Earth and shared an old clip from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on social media last month, though Irving clarified that he did not agree with Jones when it came to what anything about the Sandy Hook shooting.
“I want to sit down and make sure he understands that this is offensive to all of us and as a person of faith it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion,” Tsai tweeted about Irving.
The NBA said Saturday that “hate speech of any kind is unacceptable.”
“We believe that we all have a role to play in ensuring that such words or ideas, including anti-Semitic ones, are challenged and refuted, and we will continue to work with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions,” the league said.
It’s unclear if that means the league has spoken with Irving or plans to speak with him about the matter.
Irving was unavailable for most of the Nets’ home games last season because he refused a New York-mandated Covid-19 vaccination. The Nets then declined to extend his contract this summer, meaning Irving could be in his final season with the team.
“The Brooklyn Nets strongly condemn and do not tolerate any form of hate speech,” the team said in a statement. “We believe that in these situations, our first action should be an open, honest dialogue. We thank those, including the ADL, who have been supportive during this time.”
Nash was asked Saturday if he felt the latest Irving storyline was a distraction for the team.
“I don’t think our group was affected much by the situation,” Nash said. “We’ve had so many situations over the last two and a half years that I think we’ve developed an immunity to some of them. I also think our guys are not as familiar with the material.”