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Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal had a lot to say after Kyrie Irving was recently criticized for sharing a link to a documentary that features antisemitic tropes.
During TNT’s Inside the NBA on Tuesday, the analysts shared their thoughts about the Brooklyn Nets star tweeting a link to the 2018 film Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America on Thursday in a post that has since been deleted. The following day, Nets owner Joe Tsai tweeted his disappointment that the player “appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation.”
Barkley told viewers that NBA and commissioner Adam Silver “dropped the ball” on his handling of Irving’s situation. “First of all, Adam’s Jewish,” Barkley said. He then referenced the nearly $37 million that Irving will reportedly earn for this season: “You can’t take my $40 million and insult my religion. If you’re gonna insult me, you have the right. But I have the right to say, ‘No, you’re not going to take my $40 million and insult my religion.’ I think the NBA, they made a mistake.”
The Hall of Fame player continued, “We have suspended people and fined people who have made homophobic slurs — and that was the right thing to do. I think if you insult the Black community, you should be suspended or fined heavily. I saw they did the same thing to the kid [Anthony Edwards] in Minnesota this year when he made the gay slur. I think you should get suspended or fined.”
Barkley went on to say that Irving should have been reprimanded for his previous post earlier this year promoting decades-old footage of Alex Jones discussing secret societies. “I can’t believe that we ain’t talking about basketball — we’re talking about this idiot,” Barkley said of Irving. “I blame the NBA.”
After host Ernie Johnson said that conversations are still taking place about how to move forward from this, Barkley appeared to get heated and said that the NBA waited too long to act. “The reason it’s too late: The NBA is giving in to peer pressure,” Barkley continued. “If one of our players do something, the team or the league has to do something immediately. If you just give in to peer pressure, that’s the problem I have. This should have been handled already.”
Additionally, co-host O’Neal said that not everyone is conscious about how such public messages can impact others. “I can tell he’s not conscious — he doesn’t really care what’s going on,” O’Neal said about Irving. “It hurts me sometimes when we have to sit up here to talk about stuff that divides the game. Now we got to answer for what this idiot has done. I stand for equality of all people.”
During a tense press conference Saturday, Irving appeared to double down on his support of the film. “I’m not going to stand down on anything I believe in,” said Irving, who starred in the 2018 Lionsgate comedy Uncle Drew. “I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me.”
In a statement issued Saturday, the NBA said that hate speech “is unacceptable” but did not directly name Irving.
On Wednesday, Irving and the Nets said in a joint statement that they will each donate $500,000 to causes and organizations that strive to eliminate hate in the community, and that this will involve working with the Anti-Defamation League. In the statement, Irving said, in part, “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”
Nov. 2, 5:16 p.m. Updated with statement from Irving and the Nets.
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