The Nets Dumped Steve Nash. Should It Have Been Kyrie Irving?

The star-loaded Nets have an awful record and parted ways with Coach Steve Nash. But a bigger problem with Kyrie Irving and his antisemitic social media post remains.

Be careful what you wish for. That adage comes to mind when I think of Kyrie Irving and his misguided, misinformed and downright dangerous support of antisemitism.

Nets General Manager Sean Marks, in announcing the firing of Coach Steve Nash at a news conference on Tuesday, tried to say Irving’s sorry-not-sorry stance over the antisemitic and conspiratorial posts he made on social media had nothing to do with the team’s decision to part ways with Nash.

He said no players were consulted, and he urged reporters not to link the coaching change and Irving’s posts.

But it’s hard not to separate Irving from the disaster the Nets have become, even though they were hyped before the season as a possible title contender behind the force of Irving and Kevin Durant.

Irving’s offensive posts, while no longer online, are clearly overshadowing the Nets, and the league. Some courtside fans wore T-shirts reading “Fight Antisemitism” at a home game Monday against the Indiana Pacers, and Marks said that the team has been asking for advice from the Anti-Defamation League. He would not say if Irving has been part of those conversations.

He really should be, and the N.B.A., sputtering from crisis to crisis this season, should be ashamed one of its franchises has to resort to such a dialogue.

This episode shows that the athlete empowerment I’ve championed has a flip side: Irving needs to consider the power of his words and his role in spreading dangerous messages to millions.

Irving, the Nets point guard, is a basketball star with a megaphone. Nike sponsors him and produces his signature shoe. He is a vice president of the N.B.A. players’ union. He is not only a regular in the nationally televised sports firmament, he has 22 million followers on Twitter and Instagram.

He can use his platform for good, which he has done as one of the many famed Black athletes who stood against injustice during the tumult of 2020 following the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

But he can also do as he is now — use his status to inject poison into our world.

Irving recently shared to his sizable social media following a link to a film that is a case study in antisemitic tropes and the disgusting narratives that have dogged and harmed Jews for generations. I will not give the movie any more credence or legitimacy by naming it. But let’s put it this way: Any narrative that claims Jews controlled the slave trade and worship the devil deserves the firmest of condemnations.

And in case you missed it, this is not the first time Irving has gone down the rabbit hole. Just a few weeks ago, he was sharing an old video of Alex Jones railing against the so-called New World Order.

Alex Jones. The alt-right talk show fraud recently ordered by a jury to pay nearly $1 billion to the families he defamed after their children died in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

Has Irving expressed any remorse or doubt for any of his posts? No, none. Instead, he doubled down, sticking to what has now become the script for public cowards, casting himself as a victim of reporters and anyone else who dares to ask about his support of hatred. “Why are you dehumanizing me?” he said after Saturday’s game, claiming he did nothing wrong and denying any responsibility.

Irving has shown himself as a poor and unacceptable leader for the Nets. Yet if Nash goes because he’s proved to be a mediocre coach, why should the team tolerate someone like Irving?

It was easy to shrug off Irving as eccentric when he claimed with a straight face that the Earth is flat.

He’s clearly a man easily duped into following conspiratorial thinking and who fails to vet or think critically about the information he consumes.

Then came more warning signs he would not shirk from peddling dangerous ideas. He held tight to his anti-vaccination beliefs during the coronavirus pandemic and refused to follow science during a public health crisis that has killed over one million Americans and decimated Black and Brown communities that Irving claims to care for deeply.

It’s time for the N.B.A. to consider the ramifications of having him in the league.

Monique Jaques for The New York Times

“Let’s acknowledge that Kyrie is a basketball player, not a scholar, a subject matter expert on these issues,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said when we spoke Tuesday. “On the other hand, he’s a role model, one of the most beloved players in the league, let alone in Brooklyn. And I say that because when he tweets, it says something, and it sends signals, and people listen to him.”

All of this feeds into a grim reality for American Jews. Fueled by antisemitism from several quarters, acts of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions reached the highest level seen in the nearly 45 years the A.D.L. has been tracking such hate crimes, according to Greenblatt.

The sad paradox is that Irving plays for a team based in Brooklyn, where “we have seen a surge of antisemitism in recent years,” Greenblatt said. “Jewish people are getting harassed, Jewish homes and synagogues are getting vandalized. People are getting assaulted. What Kyrie did, considering the team he plays on, that’s why I think it struck such a nerve for so many people.”

With fame comes responsibility. Part of that is the responsibility to gain critical understanding before using the power of your voice. Irving and others did that in 2020, ushering in a new age of empowerment, and athletes felt encouraged to speak up against authority. But he failed miserably with his recent posts.

Should we hold out hope that he can redeem himself?

Remarkably, Greenblatt believes he can. If, that is, Irving “will take the time to engage kind of in a process of learning and healing, working to better understand.”

“I think all of us would be well served by this.”

Greenblatt is ready for the call. Is Irving?

Source: Basketball -


Pep Guardiola rejects invitation to go to World Cup in Qatar as Man City boss reveals his plans during tournament

England’s forgotten XI of stars who couldn’t remember played for Three Lions including Jack Cork and Lewis Cook