Kyrie Irving has more than earned his fair share of critics, to put it mildly, following several controversial moves over the years that recently culminated with a scandal centered on antisemitism stemming from a social media post.
But to suggest he’s alienated everyone would be a vast misstatement as there seems to be a growing contingency of notable people speaking out in support of the NBA star who is being disciplined for tweeting a link to a film that has been called antisemitic.
Over the weekend, social media hashtags of #IStandWithKyrie and #FreeKyrieIrving went viral with posts pledging allegiance to Irving and calling his treatment unjust in a unified demonstration that was at once both against anti-semitism as well as pro-Black.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Brooklyn Nets suspended its star point guard on Friday after giving the NBA champion multiple chances to denounce antisemitism to no avail. The Nets announced Irving “is currently unfit to be associated with” the team because it said he has “refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film.” The Nets said Irving would not “clarify” his views on the film and displayed a “failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so.”
Only then — a full week after Irving shared a link for the documentary, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” — did he issue a formal apology to “Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post.” Irving said in a statement that insisted he was “deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize.”
But his contrition was apparently too little and too late as Nike announced Friday that it decided to suspend its relationship with Irving, whose lucrative contract with the sports apparel giant includes the latest version of the NBA star’s sneakers that will now no longer be manufactured and sold.
To some, the punishments were well deserved for a privileged professional basketball player who fancies himself as somewhat of an enlightener and has previously embraced various topics and conspiracy theories that range from the shape of the earth to the COVID-19 vaccine.
To others, though, Irving’s treatment has been tantamount to a public lynching for a young, wealthy, Black athlete whose First Amendment rights were being trampled in favor of respectability politics that have nothing to do with the game of basketball.
It’s been the latter who have been vehemently rallying around Irving and claim that the anger and outrage are misdirected since the link to the movie shared by Irving goes to Amazon.com, which remains marketing and profiting from the controversial film that is directed by a Holocaust-denier who included a fake quote attributed to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The argument is, of course, if Irving is wrong for posting a link to the film, then surely Amazon is much more wrong for making the film and its book versions available to rent for $11.99 and to buy for $49.99.
Meanwhile, Irving’s fate in the NBA remains uncertain as his suspension is for at least five games and his return is reportedly contingent upon completing six conditions as outlined by the Nets: apologizing for sharing a link to the movie and condemning the documentary; donating $500,000 to anti-hate causes; completing in sensitivity training; completing antisemitic training; meeting with Jewish leaders; and meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai to prove he now understands the error in his ways.
As a result, an apparently growing number of critics have been speaking out to not necessarily defend Irving’s actions but more to call out what they see as a punishment that is not fitting of the proverbial crime. A sampling of the outcry of support follows below.
1. Floyd Mayweather
The boxing champion posted a video of himself saying how Irving, “a great man,” deserves to be “treated fair.” Mayweather said he respects Irving for not being “controlled by money” and “for having some integrity and being your own man” before adding: “A free man makes his own choices and a slave mind follows the crowd.”
2. Dr. Umar Johnson
Upping the antisemitic ante, Dr. Umar Johnson posted a photo of Irving and the artist formerly known as Kanye and asked his followers to send him a t-shirt bearing images of their faces.
“I stand with my bruhs,” Johnson’s post said.
3. Candace OwensSource:CSPAN screenshot
Alleged con artist Candace Owens, who once said Hitler “wanted to make Germany great,” encouraged Irving to leave the NBA over the way he was being treated.
“They are publicly hanging him, in part because he showed he would not bend the knee to the corporate Covid vaccine lies,” Owens tweeted (likely only because that lines up with her own opinion).
4. Antonio BrownSource:Getty
NFL outcast Antonio Brown, who is fresh off a public indecency scandal, called Irving a “superhero” and urged the NBA to let him play.
5. Mahmoud Abdul-RaufSource:Getty
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who was famously blacklisted from the NBA for refusing to stand up during the playing of the national anthem, took to Instagram to call Irving’s discipline “intimidation tactics that are aimed to discourage discussion around critical issues.” Without specifically calling out the NBA or the Nets, Abdul-Rauf said said there is “intent” to “dehumanize” Irving. Abdul-Rauf said Irving didn’t ask for his support, “but I’m with you and hear you” he said while suggesting Muslims, Jews, Christians and “so called black leadership” were not.
6. Bishop Talbert SwanSource:Getty
Bishop Talbert Swan, a New England-based pastor who is prolific on Twitter, has maintained that if Irving’s actions were antisemitic then so too are the actions from the media, which he said have perpetuated “false, racist, stereotypical, depictions of Black people … that have led to violence and marginalization.”
7. Isaiah WashingtonSource:Getty
Isaiah Washington, the one-time Trump supporter, tweeted his support by encouraging Irving to invest in a movie project to “help both of our wealth building.”
8. Cole BeasleySource:Getty
Former NFL player Cole Beasley, who took an anti-COVID-19 vaccine stance similar to Irving, wondered on Twitter: “Is Amazon getting cancelled too or nah?” Beasley added in another tweet, “I just don’t think him posting the documentary is worthy of a suspension.”
The rapper formerly known as Kanye West, whose clear embrace of antisemitism led to a monumental loss of wealth in a short period of time, posted a photo of Irving on Instagram and wrote: “There’s some real ones still here.”
10. Ebro, radio personality
Ebro, a radio executive and personality, took the same stance Irving did before the NBA star apologized and suggested that posting a link to the film is not antisemitic at all.
“Stop spreading this lie,” Ebro said.
11. Tim Black, radio host
Radio host Tim Black didn’t hold back in his support for Irving and his criticism of the NBA and suggested the hoops star is unnecessarily being made an example of after apologizing and denouncing antisemitism. “That’s ENOUGH,” Black tweeted.Eb
12. Gregg Marcel Dixon, former congressional candidate
Gregg Marcel Dixon, the former candidate for Congress in South Carolina who has been an outspoken proponent for reparations, took to Twitter to encourage Irving to “NOT let these anti-black bigoted, rabid creatures lynch” him.
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