Unpack With YUPAC: No Longer Playing Defense
Even I, with a severely limited knowledge of basketball, know “Kyrie.” Kyrie Irving is an NBA and Brooklyn superstar. My sister wears his #11 jersey to school, I regularly hear talk about his performance in the last game and I know all about his bromance with Kevin Durant. Now, I hear about his since-deleted tweet supporting an antisemitic documentary spreading lies about Jews. Kyrie publicly supported a film that denies the Holocaust, calls all Jews racists and says they were the perpetrators of slavery. Adding insult to injury, Irving tweeted this with antisemitism on the rise and instigated by Ye's (formerly known as Kanye West) antisemitic statements.
Kyrie initially defended his comment by saying, “Did I hurt anybody? Did I harm anybody?” But what he obviously didn’t know is that yes, he did hurt somebody, and yes, he did harm somebody. As Jews in the 21st century, we are all too familiar with our favorite point guard, favorite rapper or favorite company displaying antisemitism, further propelling hate crimes directed at Jews in America.
A group of Jews sitting court-side at the Nets game against the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 31 came wearing “Fight Antisemitism” T-shirts. The next day, amid fury and confusion about an All-Star I once respected, I saw the articles about this group of fans fighting antisemitism at the game; and in every article, they were called just that — fans. This, to me, highlights the way we Jews can influence society. We have become accustomed to our role models turning their backs on us, but we still show up and still go to the game. But when is it too much? When can we no longer separate the artist from his art?
Different groups have successfully created movements resisting their problematic treatment. The Black Lives Matter movement, the Me Too movement and others do not tolerate abuses of the groups for which they stand up. So why, as Jews, do we tolerate it? Why do I still see teenage Jewish boys repping their Yeezy’s in the street?
Now, I have a confession — I am a slow writer. I wonder, however, if that benefited me in this circumstance. The morning I wrote this article, I saw a post by the Brooklyn Nets, discussing the $500,000 that Kyrie Irving pledged to organizations that work to stop hatred of all types. Then I saw that the Nets had suspended Irving over his comments, and later, that Irving had apologized for what he had said. When I read those pieces of news, I thought, “Okay, let's rewrite this article: Kyrie has nothing against the Jews, and everyone is happy.” However, that thought didn’t last long. Rather, this backlash showed me the power that we have by using our voices. Too often, we let things slide; we defend our haters, and we listen to their music. Jews, I believe, have found a significant outlet to cause a change — by making ourselves heard and protesting our mistreatment. We can sit at the game, make eye contact with Kyrie Irving and run commercials during Sunday football and thus fight antisemitism. We did not choose the route of victimization, but we can choose how we stand up for ourselves. As Jews, we are constantly on the defense and constantly under attack. So by understanding both the artist and his art, we can use our power to make noise and make a change. We understand and internalize that we need to show up — for ourselves, for our religion and for our identity.
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Photo Caption: Nets star Kyrie Irving recently made antisemitic comments for which he was heavily criticized
Photo Credit: Erik Drost, Wikimedia Commons