Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant said the fallout from Kyrie Irving’s social media posts that centered on an antisemitic book and movie is an “unfortunate situation” that “just sucks all around for everybody and hopefully we can move past it.”
Irving was suspended by the Nets on Thursday for “no less than five games” after he failed to formally apologize during a news conference earlier in the day for the hurt that his posts caused late last week. Irving later issued an apology over Instagram on Thursday night.
“I ain’t here to judge nobody or talk down on nobody for how they feel, their view or anything,” Durant said following the Friday shootaround. “I just didn’t like anything that went on. I feel like it was all unnecessary. I felt like we could have just kept playing basketball and kept quiet as an organization. I just don’t like none of it.”
Durant tweeted to clarify his comments, saying, “I don’t condone hate speech or antisemitism.”
Irving’s former teammate, LeBron James, was asked why the league’s player base — known to be socially conscious — had been generally quiet about the issue.
“I can’t speak for 450 players,” James said Friday night, before offering his personal assessment.
“I don’t condone any hate to any kind,” he said. “To any race. To Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities. You guys know where I stand.”
James cited his media company Uninterrupted’s recent decision not to air an episode of his YouTube show, “The Shop,” featuring Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, as a guest because of those same values.
“Part of the reason why I didn’t air ‘The Shop’ episode, why we kicked that out of the archives,” James said. “Because it was hate conversation going on there. And I don’t represent that. There’s no place in this world for it. Nobody can benefit from that, and I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people.”
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James acknowledged Irving’s apology, but pushed back at Irving’s initial argument that he was not promoting the documentary by sharing its title and streaming information on his social media platforms.
“He caused some harm, and I think it’s unfortunate,” James said. “But I don’t stand on the position to harm people when it comes to your voice or your platform or anything. So it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you’re in. If you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harms people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t condone it.”
General manager Sean Marks, who traveled with the team for the Friday game against the Washington Wizards, said the Nets never considered waiving Irving in the wake of this latest controversy.
“No,” Marks said. “Not at this point in time.”
Marks said that while the apology on Instagram was a good first step, Irving will need to take more steps, including “counseling designated by the team” as well as meeting with Jewish leaders within the Brooklyn community, before being able to play for the Nets again.
“I think after anything like this, you would always hope that there’s a change,” Marks said. “There’s a change in feelings, a change in attitude, I think, per his apology, that’s a step in the right direction. But as we’ve sort of stated, actions speak louder than words. And so he’s had some time and there will be more time to reflect on that.
“… He’s going to have to sit down [with Jewish leaders]. He’s going to have to sit down with the organization after this. And we’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”
When asked if he agreed with the team’s decision to suspend Irving, Durant said, “I believe and trust in the organization to do what’s right.”
As a longtime superstar in the league, Durant understands and has discussed the around-the-clock coverage that the NBA and its players receive.
“It’s just the way of the NBA now,” Durant said. “Media, there’s so many outlets now and stories hit pretty fast now. That’s where all the chaos is coming from. Everybody’s opinion, and everybody has an opinion on this situation, and we’re hearing it nonstop.
“But once the balls start bouncing and we get into practice, none of that stuff seeps into the gym, so that’s the cool part about being in the gym. But once you step off the court, everybody’s got the microphones out, microscopes, looking at you, asking you what you feel about it. So that’s been difficult, but the game is a constant for us.”
Speaking after Friday’s 128-86 loss to the Nets, Wizards forward Deni Avdija, believed to be the only current active Jewish player in the NBA right now, said he believed Irving made a “mistake.”
“I’ve heard, I’ve seen,” Avdija said. “At the end of the day, I think [Irving’s] a role model, he’s a great player, I think he [made] a mistake but you need to understand that he gives [an] example to people. People look up to him, you know what I’m saying? You can think whatever you want, you can do whatever you want, I don’t think it’s right to go out in public and publish it. And let little kids that follow you see it. And the generation to come after to think like that because it’s not true. And I don’t think it’s fair. Hopefully, he’s sorry for what he said.”
Avdija said he has gotten support from his own teammates and had a nice interaction with Irving the first time they played each other, but he still believes “consequences” are warranted given Irving’s choices.
“I think there needs to be consequences for the actions that a player [does],” Avdija said. “I don’t know the punishment that the league gives but I think that needs to be known that there’s no room for words like that.”
Avdija’s teammate, meanwhile, the Wizards’ Kyle Kuzma, addressed a tweet he sent on Friday that said, “can’t even tell the truth no more.” He said it was taken out of context and was in reference to a personal matter and not Irving’s situation.
“Probably a product of wrong place, wrong time, for sure,” Kuzma said. “Obviously, anyone who knows me, knows my character, I’m all about peace and love. I don’t condone any discrimination or hate of any race, religion, politician, whatever you want to call it. But just unfortunate in the world we live in and how we all don’t think the same.”
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.
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