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‘Need to be consequences’: Israeli Deni Avdija backs suspension of Kyrie Irving

Jewish forward says not right of Brooklyn Nets star to ‘let little kids that follow’ him on social media be exposed to antisemitism

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) defends Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (9) as Avdija drives toward the Wizards basket during the second quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game, December 13, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) defends Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (9) as Avdija drives toward the Wizards basket during the second quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game, December 13, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As a Jewish forward for the Washington Wizards, Deni Avdija was naturally going to be asked about Kyrie Irving.

Especially when his team just finished playing against the Brooklyn Nets.

Avdija said Friday night he tries to stay positive in the face of antisemitism, but he also believes there should be consequences for players’ actions. The 21-year-old from Israel spoke for a few minutes in the Washington locker room after the Wizards lost to the Irving-less Nets.

Brooklyn suspended Irving on Thursday for posting a since-deleted link to an antisemitic work. The fallout from his post continued Friday with Nike announcing the company has halted its relationship with Irving.

“I think people look up to him,” Avdija said. “You can think whatever you want, you can do whatever you want. Just, I don’t think it’s right to go out in public and publish it and let little kids that follow you see it, and the generations that come after to think like that, because it’s not true, and I don’t think it’s fair.”

Avdija is in his third NBA season. He’s the league’s lone Israeli-born player.

“I’m Jewish, and I love my culture, I love my country,” he said. “It’s a little upsetting to hear some stuff about your religion. Just spread love, man. Love everybody, love all cultures.”

Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (9) in action during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, October 25, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Avdija talked about the support he receives from the Jewish community and Israelis around the world. He was asked how often he’s had to deal with antisemitism.

“In terms of things like that, it’s always going to be there. It will never go away,” he said. “It’s just, if you want to pay attention to the stuff or you just want to keep moving and focus on the important stuff in life. I’m a positive guy. I’m not looking for the bad things.”

Avdija was supportive of the punishment for Irving.

“I think there need to be consequences for the actions that players do,” he said. “I don’t know the amount, the punishment that the league gives, but I think it needs to be known that there’s no room for words like that.”

Kyle Kuzma, Avdija’s teammate, caused a bit of a stir when he tweeted, “Can’t even tell the truth no more,” on Friday. He said that was in reference to a personal matter and not Irving’s situation.

Kuzma also said he received death threats following the tweet.

“It’s probably bots at this point. I don’t know who is behind the mic, who is behind the tweets,” Kuzma said. “But there were a few of those. But it all stems from just wrong place, wrong time, misinterpretations, so I get it. It’s not the end of the world.”

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