In a combative postgame news conference Saturday, Kyrie Irving responded to accusations of antisemitism after the Brooklyn Nets and owner Joe Tsai condemned his recent social media post linking to a book and movie that have been described as antisemitic.
The movie, released in 2018, is based on a 2015 book of the same name, and the film’s description says it “uncovers the true identity of the children of Israel by proving the true ethnicity of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Sons of Ham, Shem & Japheth. Find out what Islam, Judaism and Christianity has covered up for centuries in regards to the true biblical identity of the so-called ‘Negro.’ ”
Rolling Stone published a story Thursday noting that the film’s director and narrator, Ronald Dalton Jr., says “schools don’t mention the involvement of the Catholic Church, Arab, East African or Islamic slave traders” or “the Jewish slave ships that brought our West African Negro or Bantu ancestors to slave ports owned by [Jews].”
The Rolling Stone story also noted that the film and book flirt with and traffic in antisemitic tropes, such as a suggestion that anti-Black racism can be traced back to Jewish texts.
“Western education and religion tries to teach the world that blacks are cursed with their skin color by the Curse of Ham/Canaan,” the film says, per Rolling Stone. “This is also taught in European Jewish documents and in the teachings of the Talmud book in Judaism. Some can say that it established the base for Black racism even before the KKK.”
Following Brooklyn’s 125-116 home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, Irving denied that he was antisemitic but did not apologize for his social media posts. Irving quibbled with the notion that he had “promoted” the “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” film and book, asserting that he had merely “put it out there.”
“We’re in 2022,” Irving said. “History is not supposed to be hidden from anybody. I’m not a divisive person when it comes to religion. I embrace all walks of life, you see it on all my platforms. I talk to all races, all cultures, all religions.
“My response [to the backlash] would be, it’s not about educating yourself on what Semitism is, what antisemitism is, it’s really about learning the root words of where things come from and understanding this is an African heritage that is also belonging to the people. Africa is in it, whether we want to dismiss it or not. The claims of antisemitism and who are the original chosen people of God, we go into these religious conversations and it’s a big no-no. I don’t live my way like that. I don’t live my life that way.”
For Irving, this recent episode comes after the Nets guard in September shared an old clip of Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones talking about the “New World Order” to his Instagram story. Jones this month was ordered to pay $965 million in damages to families of victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting as damages after promoting for years the lie that the massacre was a hoax.
Irving distanced himself from Jones’s Sandy Hook statements Saturday, but added that he believed that Jones’s “New World Order” conspiracy theory was “true.”
“I do not stand with Alex Jones’s position, narrative, court case that he had with Sandy Hook,” Irving said. “Any of the kids that felt like they had to relive trauma or the parents that had to relive trauma, or to be dismissive to all the lives lost during that tragic event. My post was a post from Alex Jones that he did in the early ’90s or late ’90s, about secret societies in America, of occults. And it’s true. So, I wasn’t identifying with anything, being a [campaigner] for Alex Jones or anything.”
Tsai on Friday expressed disappointment in Irving, adding in a subsequent tweet that the issue was “bigger than basketball.”
“I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation,” Tsai tweeted. “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.”
In a statement, the Nets condemned Irving’s post.
“The Brooklyn Nets strongly condemn and have no tolerance for the promotion of any form of hate speech.” it said. “We believe that in these situations, our first action must be open, honest dialogue.”
Without naming Irving, the NBA also released a statement before Saturday’s game: “Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion and respect. We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions.”
Before Friday’s game, Irving wrote on Twitter that he “meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs.”
“The ‘antisemitic’ label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday,” he said. “I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions.”
Irving, who has averaged 29.6 points through five games entering Saturday, missed 53 games last season because of his refusal to get vaccinated, which made him ineligible for home contests because of New York City’s vaccine mandate.
Brooklyn fell to 1-5, tied for the worst record in the Eastern Conference, with its loss to Indiana.