Meet the fans who wore ‘fight antisemitism’ shirts to protest Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving wasn’t getting the message about antisemitism — so a group of Orthodox Jews sat courtside at his game to reinforce it.
In a plan that came together in less than 24 hours, eight Jewish fans went to the Brooklyn Nets’ home game Monday night in matching blue shirts with the phrase “fight antisemitism” emblazoned across it. Their appearance during the broadcast alongside Irving, the star Nets guard who posted a link to an antisemitic movie Thursday, instantly went viral on Twitter.
Realizing that their two families had eight consecutive seats in the front row on the side of the court facing TV cameras, the two account holders, Aaron Jungreis and Bryan Haimm, hatched the idea at a wedding Sunday night.
“They wanted to give a sign to the Nets that they’re season ticket holders and they don’t approve of what Kyrie is doing,” said Andrew Pearl, Jungreis’ son-in-law, who was in the group that went. “And they wanted to show Kyrie.”
Irving, in his 12th season in the league and his fourth with the Brooklyn Nets, had tweeted a link to the Amazon page for the book “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” without comment on Thursday to his 4.5 million followers. The film asserts that Blacks are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites and claims to “uncover what Islam, Judaism and Christianity has covered up for centuries.”
Irving refused to apologize despite blowback in the media, telling a reporter who asked him about it to “change your life,” though he deleted the post Monday afternoon.
In spite of widespread calls for his basketball team or the NBA to fine or suspend him, neither has taken such action, and they seem unlikely to. Instead, both issued vague statements condemning antisemitism and hate speech that did not name the player.
The shirts caught Irving’s attention at the end of the first quarter, Pearl said, and the veteran point guard soon approached the group.
“He was laughing sarcastically and basically said, ‘I appreciate you guys for coming out, you guys really showed up in numbers,’” Pearl recalled. “And he also said, ‘I support you guys.’ Which, I mean, he said it all sarcastically while putting up a thumbs up.”
A video of the moment was posted on social media Tuesday.
The group’s response, Pearl said, was: “We don’t fight with hate, we fight with love. And we still love you. But we have to wear the shirts.”
Pearl, who is Orthodox and works in real estate, is a lifelong NBA fan who admires Irving’s basketball talent. But like many others, he’s grown weary of the seven-time all-star’s off-court controversies — and the attention his posts inevitably draw.
Still, he recognized a conundrum when it came to punishing Irving for the tweet: Fining or suspending Kyrie might play into the conspiracy that Jews have all the power.
Lindsay Haimm, who hustled to the Bergen Town Center in Paramus, New Jersey, to get the shirts made Monday afternoon, felt the group’s message threaded the needle.
“We weren’t going to show Kyrie, ‘Hey, look at our shirts, look at us, we don’t support you,’” Haimm, 23, said. “We’re showing our support for the Jews and showing that there really can’t be any tolerance for antisemitism in the world.”