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Sorry not sorry: Kyrie Irving deletes apology for sharing antisemitic movie

A fresh controversy to go with that fresh Dallas Mavericks jersey

Was Kyrie Irving ever really sorry?

After NBA star Kyrie Irving served the minimum five games of an indefinite suspension levied by his then-employer, the Brooklyn Nets, for sharing an antisemitic movie, prominent voices around the league pointed to his Instagram apology as reason for his reinstatement.

Three months later, Irving has taken his talents to Texas — and has taken down the apology.

Responding to a question about the deletion during his introductory press conference with the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday afternoon, Irving said, “I delete a lot of things all the time, and it’s no disrespect to anyone within the community. Just living my life.”

Asked whether he stood by the words of the apology, Irving said, “I stand by who I am and why I apologized, and I did it because I care about my family and I have Jewish members of my family that care for me deeply.”

Then he turned defiant.

“Did the media know that beforehand, when they called me that word, antisemitic? No. Did they know anything about my family? No. Everything was assumed, put out before I had anything to say,” Irving said. He added that he had “had a lot of conversations about world history, what was contained in there. I didn’t agree with everything, I’ve been up here saying that, and I’m going to leave it at that.”

“If specific media members actually cared to do research instead of being the first to report things, then they would know where I come from,” Irving added. “The diversity of my family is beautiful, and I’m going to continue to focus on them, and when I’m on the court, try not to be distracted by y’all.”

His remarks Tuesday seemed to echo the comment he made to reporters in November that finally prompted the suspension: “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”

Irving’s deletion of the Nov. 3 post reopens a saga that began Oct. 27, when he tweeted an Amazon streaming link to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, as the veteran point guard prepared to suit up for his new team. The movie claims the Holocaust was invented by Ashkenazi Jews to cover up their usurping of authentic Jewish heritage from Black people.

The Dallas Mavericks sent two starters and three draft picks to Brooklyn for Irving, who will start in the NBA All-Star game later this month. The Mavs’ owner, Mark Cuban, is Jewish.

In the Instagram post — whose deletion was reported first by The Athletic‘s Sam Amick — Irving stated that the movie “contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion” and that he was “deeply sorry.”

“People I talked to had the feeling that at minimum, he was done with the Nets,” Amick said, noting that Irving had apologized for his actions in other forums.

The deletion is bound to raise questions about Irving’s sincerity, which in the absence of other remedial measures sought by the Nets, such as meeting with the Anti-Defamation League, had been touted by Irving defenders as sufficient for reinstatement. Some of those lobbying for Irving’s return, such as ESPN basketball analyst Jay Williams, suggested that he was being treated unfairly because of his race.

Among Irving’s vocal NBA supporters was Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, a former Irving teammate, who said in a series of tweets that “Kyrie apologized and he should be able to play. That’s what I think. It’s that simple. Help him learn — but he should be playing. What he’s asked to do to get back on the floor I think is excessive IMO. He’s not the person that’s being portrayed of him.”

James seems also to have hoped to reunite with Irving, who demanded a trade from the Nets last week. After it was announced Irving was headed to the Mavericks, James tweeted, “Maybe It’s Me,” and admitted later he was disappointed the Lakers had failed to land him.

A Jewish-owned team

Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban seen during a game between the Dallas Mavericks and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Dec. 3, 2022. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The likelihood that Irving would be traded to a franchise with a Jewish owner was nearly a coin flip, with 13 of the 30 NBA teams principally owned by Jewish people. (Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai is not Jewish.) The man who will sign Irving’s next paycheck weighed in on the antisemitism controversy during Irving’s suspension.

In a podcast released Nov. 10, Cuban said that while he did not think Irving was comparable to torch-waving alt-right protesters in Charlottesville, he “had a lot to learn.”

“I don’t think Kyrie has got a bad heart, but I think he’s definitely not educated about the impact it has” when he posts, Cuban said at the time, adding, “We all make mistakes and we all learn from it and I hope Kyrie does the same thing.”

Cuban did not address the controversy in his first public comments following the trade.

It was unclear when Irving deleted the post. Prior to issuing the apology, he had denied that he was promoting the movie by sharing it with his more than 4 million followers. His suggestion that he could not be antisemitic came in an after-practice media availability and was followed by a suspension the next day.

Irving posted the apology hours after the suspension was announced. It can still be read in its entirety here.

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