Kyrie Irving has apologized and given some explanation of his actions in a new interview with SNY following the fallout that came after he boosted a film that pushed antisemitic tropes, linking his 4.5 million Twitter followers to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, as Rolling Stone first reported.
After he participated in two news conferences where he didn’t “unequivocally” apologize or disavow the antisemitic content in the film, the Nets suspended him on Nov. 3. Hours later, Irving issued an apology via Instagram. However, a mere five days before, he gave a non-apology, saying he never meant any disrespect — and he also never officially said he was sorry at that time.
The point guard is expected to return to the court on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies after having been suspended for nearly two weeks and missing eight games. In that time, he told SNY that he has had time to reflect and has met with members of the Jewish community, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and Nets governors Joe and Clara Wu Tsai. One of the conditions of his suspension included that he satisfy “a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
“I really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community. Putting some type of threat, or assumed threat, on the Jewish community,” Irving told SNY. “I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions throughout the time that it’s been since the post was first put up. I’ve had a lot of time to think. But my focus, initially, if I could do it over, would be to heal and repair a lot of my close relationships with my Jewish relatives, brothers and sisters.”
He said that he didn’t initially apologize during the news conferences because he reacted defensively.
“I felt like I was protecting my character and I reacted out of just pure defense and just hurt that I could be labeled, or I thought that I was being labeled as antisemitic or anti-Jewish, and I’ve felt like that was just so disrespectful to ask me whether or not I was antisemitic or not,” he said.
“Now to the outside world, that may have been seen as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Which rightfully so, it should’ve been, ‘No, I’m not antisemitic. No, I’m not anti-Jewish.’ I’m a person who believes we should all have equal opportunities and that we should all shower each other with love, and that should be at the forefront.
“But it wasn’t in that initial conversation, and I take my accountability and I want to apologize for that, because it came off the wrong way completely. What I was really getting at was, ‘How can I be antisemitic, if I know where I come from?’ That statement itself was just referring back to my childhood and all the relatives and friends that I have made and that I will continue to get to know on a deeper level. They’re Jewish — some of them are Jewish, some of them are not Jewish. I felt like that didn’t matter, and because I felt like that didn’t matter in the moment, it came off the wrong way.”
In the wake of Irving’s suspension, Nike severed ties with the player, and his delayed remorse has impacted the youth who look up to him and take his word as truth. “That was probably the most painful experience of all this,” he said.
“I don’t stand for any hate speech, I don’t stand for racial prejudices or racial discrimination, and I for sure don’t stand for any religious hatred against any groups,” he concluded. “I don’t want to bring any harm to any community, I only want to bring more light and peace to our world. In order to do that, you need to come through some moments that maybe (are) challenging and testing.”