Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving was the target of a court-side protest on Monday, as a group of people filled the front row, the men wearing yarmulkes and all of them wearing matching t-shirts that read, “Fight anti-semitism.”
Photos of the protest quickly began to circulate on social media.
Quite the visual here. pic.twitter.com/9FD3pfnUcL
— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) November 1, 2022
The protest came about after Irving shared a tweet Thursday — which appears to have been deleted — including a clip from a movie titled “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” The film, according to Rolling Stone, is based on a book of the same name by Ronald Dalton and is “stuffed with anti-semitic tropes.”
“They should not keep a guy like that around,” protester Aaron Jungreis told the New York Post’s Ian O’Connor. “A lot of people are going to cancel. They have to discipline him in some way. We told him we love him anyway, even though we know he hates us.”
Jungreis also said that Irving had responded to them, but when he told them he appreciated them, “he said it sarcastically.”
Aaron Jungreis, in "Fight anti-Semitism" shirt, on Kyrie Irving Part 2: "We told him we love him anyway, even though we know he hates us." He said Irving told the 8 fans in those shirts that he appreciates them, but "he said it sarcastically."
— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) November 1, 2022
Irving’s tweet also caught the attention of Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, who tweeted his response last Friday.
“I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation. 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,” Tsai tweeted, adding, “This is bigger than basketball.”
This is bigger than basketball
— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) October 29, 2022
Irving initially responded by doubling down, telling reporters on Saturday, “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.”
“We’re in 2022. It’s on Amazon, public platform,” he said of the film. “Whether you want to go watch it or not is up to you. There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different than the next human being, so don’t treat me any different. You come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have over the top [and say], ‘You cannot post that.’ Why not? Why not? Everybody posts everything else.”
He responded again to the backlash by claiming that he is an “Omnist” and did not mean to offend anyone.
“I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs. The ‘Anti-Semitic’ 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,” he said.
I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs. The “Anti-Semitic” 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.
— Hélà (@KyrieIrving) October 29, 2022