NBA analyst and Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley says he thinks the league “dropped the ball” on Kyrie Irving after the Brooklyn Nets star tweeted a documentary deemed to be antisemitic.
“I think he [Irving] should have been suspended. I think Adam [Silver, the NBA commissioner] should have suspended him,” Barkley said on TNT Tuesday ahead of the Nets’ game against the Chicago Bulls, in which Irving featured.
“First of all, Adam is Jewish. You can’t take my $40 million [Irving’s reported salary] and insult my religion.
“You’re going to insult me, you have the right, but I have the right to say no. You’re not going to take my $40 million and insult my religion. I think the NBA, they have made a mistake.”
Irving told reporters on Saturday that he is “not going to stand down on anything I believe in” after he was condemned by, among others, Nets owner Joe Tsai for tweeting a link to the 2018 movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.”
“In terms of the backlash, we’re in 2022, history is not supposed to be hidden from anybody and I’m not a divisive person when it comes to religion, I embrace all walks of life,” Irving said.
The movie is based on Ronald Dalton’s book of the same name, which has been blasted as being antisemitic by civil rights groups.
“The book and film he promotes trade in deeply #antisemitic themes including those promoted by dangerous sects of the Black Hebrew Israelites movement,” tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. (ADL)
The NBA released a statement calling hate speech “unacceptable” and “counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion and respect.”
“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’s statement added.
The Nets also said they “strongly condemn and have no tolerance for the promotion of any form of hate speech.”
Asked why Irving hasn’t been disciplined for his tweet, Nets general manager Sean Marks told reporters: “I think we are having these discussions behind the scenes. I honestly don’t want to really get into those right now … Really just trying to weigh out exactly what the best course of action is here.”
Marks added that the team is having discussions with the ADL. He would not say whether Irving was a part of those discussions with the ADL.
Late Wednesday, the Nets organization, Irving and ADL released a joint statement saying that Irving and the Nets each will donate $500,000 “toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities.”
Irving said in the statement he is a human being “learning from all walks of life” and intends to keep learning with an open mind and willingness to listen. He wrote that he meant no harm to “any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light.”
“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” Irving said in the released joint statement. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility. I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles.”
In a tumultuous period for the organization, the Nets also announced on Tuesday that they had parted ways with head coach Steve Nash.
The announcement came before the Nets’ 108-99 loss against the Bulls to go 2-6 on the season, with Jacque Vaughn appointed as interim head coach.
Marks denied that Nash’s firing had anything to do with the Kyrie Irving situation.
“No. No. We try to separate the two things,” he said.
“It’s a good question, and it’s easy to sort of lump it all in, but I think for where we’re at, we’re trying to separate the basketball side and what’s best for the team moving on.”
ESPN and The Athletic reported that Brooklyn may hire suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka, but Marks said that the team has yet to choose the next coach.
“I really don’t think it’s up to me right now to give a list of candidates who we’re talking to and where we’re going to arise and we’re going to fall on this, but I would say I will reserve that for when those decisions are made,” he added.
“I couldn’t give you a timeline of that,” continued Marks. “There’s a reason why we made this move when we did because time is ticking. We do want this process to be a thorough one. We’re not going to skip steps in that and we’ll do our due diligence like on anybody.”
Against the Bulls, Irving started the night 0-for-7 from the field, including going 0-of-4 from three-point range, not scoring his first points until there was 10:20 left in the fourth quarter.
He finished with four points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Zach LaVine recorded 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bulls to victory.