Kyrie Irving’s return to basketball will not end the controversy he started

NEW YORK — There were two microphones on Sunday night, and each told its own story.

The man on the pier between Atlantic Ave. And Flatbush, between the subway station and the arena, belonged to one man talking to dozens of men in purple and yellow jackets lined up in unison to listen, as well as passers-by going to that night’s Nets–Grizzlies game or just minding their own business. The voice coming from that mic was going on and on, talking about passages from the Bible, about his people, about the Holocaust in Germany, comparing it to the voice they faced and noting that it wasn’t that bad. They are the real Jews, he said, “not you nominalists.” He was, if not the leader of the group of nearly 300 Israelis United in Christ who settled outside the Barclays Center for Sunday hours, at least his voice. He talked for hours on a frigid night while the rest gave out pamphlets preaching their cause, giving The distorted truth about antisemitismthe kind that caused the group to be tagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Inside the arena, a few hours later, Kyrie Irving took to the microphone again, something routine but risky for the Nets star. The group that occupied so much space and noise around Barclays, lining the streets, unmistakably and unavoidably, came not because of him, but in response to him. Irving had posted a link to an Amazon Twitter page about an anti-Semitic film, for which he refused to apologize and showed no remorse. Four days later, he was caught in the middle of a storm, playing at home, and this group also appeared. He did not play again until Sunday night, having been suspended by the Nets in the meantime. Just as he came back from a 19-day absence from the net, so did they.

Of all the criticism leveled at Irving after the tweet that started it all, not the most poignant and sobering one is that he’s actually anti-Semitic or hate-filled. He had engaged in a piece of propaganda, giving oxygen to the kind of metaphors and falsehoods that Jews had faced for centuries, and had refused to condemn them vigorously and swiftly, choosing restraint instead until he was finally stopped and could not ignore it. Criticism anymore. Irving may be about love and peace, he insists, but these were the consequences many feared. Reducing the pain, the death, the horrors that have blighted the lives of so many men, women and families, for generations. Right there, at Atlantic and Flatbush Streets.

Video via Mike Forkunov/The Athletic

By Sunday night, Irving had already made his apologies. He had posted one on Instagram two weeks ago, but only after he was taken down by the Nets. He had made another one that afternoon, on his return to the Nenets, after speaking with Jewish leaders, he said. He said Irving was still intimidated at times, suggesting he felt misunderstood and mislabeled, but he was remorseful and meant no harm.

Now, Irving just wanted to focus on the game, winning 127-112 over the Grizzlies playing 26 minutes and scoring 14 points. He said he missed his teammates and coaches, and they welcomed him so easily. Newly appointed head coach while Irving was away, Jack Vaughn said he laid out the ground rules for Irving in a conversation that day.

“It’s about the collar, and I’ve been using that word there from this day on,” said Vaughn, “that’s what we’re going to be.” “Basketball is real. You get the bounce, that’s real. You’re outside the box, that’s real. You make the shot, that’s real. We’re going to make this thing real. It’s going to be about basketball and we’re going to live in that space.”

As if Irving’s fumbling with the facts wasn’t why this devolved into the situation he and the two partners found themselves in this month. It was hard to say that the Nets had returned to normal yet. The scene inside the Barclays press conference room on Sunday indicated how erratic all of this could be. As Irving spoke, Shetellia Riley Irving, his agent and stepmother, and NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio listened a few feet away, as did other union officials.

When a reporter placed the scene above, of the protesters who had come out to support them, Irving demurred. He said that conversation would be for another day. This press conference is only about the game.

Just hours ago, Irving announced that he had realized the voice he had, the voice of the 4.7 million followers on Twitter and the base that comes associated with global fame, and now he hopes to capitalize on it.

“This is a huge moment for me,” Irving said that afternoon, “because I’m able to learn in the process that the power of my voice is so powerful.” “The influence I have within my community is very powerful, and I want to be responsible for that. In order to do that, you have to admit that you are wrong in cases where you hurt people, and that affects them.”

But when another reporter asked if the protesters had moved out as a result of what he had done, he demurred again.

“One more time,” he said. “I’m just here to focus on the game.”

The time of mea culpas may be up, at least for Irving. Soon, basketball quizzes will fill the void left by the chaos of the past few weeks. You will take over the daily euphoria after the anxiety that has plagued the franchise.

Irving missed eight games in uncharacteristic fashion, penalized not for what he said but what he refused to say next despite one accident after another. He said he may still be looking into legal options to correct the eight pay games he lost, though there is no timetable for that process. Tremaglio said that NBPA leaders, such as league vice president Jaylen Brown, may have objected to his suspension and the terms of his return, but that the NBPA will not file a complaint with the league against the Nets. the athlete.


Israelis United in Christ protesters line up at the Barclays Center in support of Kyrie Irving. (Mike Vorkunov/The Athletic)

Now, Irving has regained his voice. Others have already heard it and found it an opportunity to amplify it. It was hard not to hear her in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

He reminded everyone Sunday night, but he would use it on his own terms. He, in the end, chooses when to make the most of the platform he has created. Irving sought atonement, sought forgiveness and clarity, and after nearly a month of argument, he was asked when he would use that microphone to discuss what he said to his name.

He said, “I would like to be on a platform where I can honestly share how I feel without being criticized, labeled, or dealt with outside perceptions that have nothing to do with me.” “Again, I said this morning, I just want to go into detail about everyone who knows who Kai is, what an AI is, and what I represent in my tribe. That is.”

(Photo by Kyrie Irving: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)


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