Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving on Saturday said he “won’t stand down” amid growing controversy over his support for an antisemitic film.
“I’m not here to argue over a person or a culture or a religion and what they believe,” Irving said during a post game press conference, according to ESPN.
“Nah, this is what’s here. It’s on a public platform. 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?” he said.
The player said that he respected team owner Joe Tsai, who said last week he was “disappointed” that Irving promoted the film.
“So out of all of the judgment that people got for me posting, without talking to me, and then I respect what Joe [Tsai] said, but there has a lot to do with not ego or pride of 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,” Irving said.
“So I’m not going to stand down on anything that I believe in. I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me,” Irving said.
The Nets’ star guard posted a link for the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on Twitter on Thursday. The synopsis on Amazon said the film “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel.”
Tsai and the Nets reacted quickly to the latest trouble stirred up by Irving, who had previously supported the idea of the Earth being flat and last month on social media shared an old clip from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
On Saturday, Irving said that his support for Jones was based on his views about “secret societies in America of occults” rather than the conspiracy theorist’s false claims about the Sandy Hook massacre.
“I do not stand with Alex Jones’ position, narrative, court case that he had with Sandy Hook, or any of the kids that felt like they had to relive trauma. Or parents that had to relive trauma. Or to be dismissive to all the lives that were 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,” Irving said.
Earlier this month, a court ruled Jones should pay $965 million to people who suffered from his false claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax. A Texas jury in August awarded nearly $50 million to the parents of another slain child. The Infowars host relentlessly promoted the lie that the 2012 massacre never happened, and that the grieving families seen in news coverage were actors hired as part of a plot to take away people’s guns.
Irving tweeted on Saturday that he embraces “all religions” after Tsai condemned the film “full of antisemitic information.”
“The ‘antisemitic’ label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday. I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions,” Irving tweeted.
The NBA on Saturday said “hate speech of any kind is unacceptable.”
“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,” the league said.
It was not clear if that meant the league has spoken to Irving, or plans to speak to him on the matter.
Irving was unavailable for most of the Nets’ home games last season because he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as was mandated in New York City. The Nets then declined to give him a contract extension this summer, meaning Irving could be in his final season with the team.
“The Brooklyn Nets strongly condemn and have no tolerance for the promotion of any form of hate speech,” the team said in a statement. “We believe that in these situations, our first action must be open, honest dialogue. We thank those, including the ADL, who have been supportive during this time.”