Kyrie Irving was asked if he’s antisemitic. He didn’t say no.

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(JTA) — Less than a day after agreeing to donate $500,000 to anti-hate groups, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving would not directly answer “yes” or “no” when asked if he holds antisemitic beliefs.

“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from,” Irving said Thursday after being pressed on the issue by reporters.

“I respect all walks of life and embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit,” he also said.

His comments appear to allude to the theory that Black Americans are the “real” Jews, a belief that is core to Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine and is central to the film Irving promoted in a tweet last week. Irving added that he doesn’t agree with everything that is said in the documentary, calling some of its content, including Holocaust denial, “unfortunate falsehoods.” 

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In a statement issued jointly with the Anti-Defamation League and the Nets on Wednesday, Irving said he took responsibility for his tweet and pledged, along with the Nets, to donate $500,000 to “causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate.” The Nets had also announced Tuesday that they were taking advice from the ADL

But ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt shared footage of Irving’s comments from Thursday, writing on Twitter: “The answer to the question ‘Do you have any antisemitic beliefs’ is always ‘NO’ without equivocation. We took @KyrieIrving at his word when he said he took responsibility, but today he did not make good on that promise. Kyrie clearly has a lot of work to do.”

Irving was also asked whether he had met personally with the ADL and again declined to directly answer. “I was informed that they wanted to have a meeting, and we handled it,” he said. Greenblatt told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency earlier this week that he is “optimistic that we will be in direct discussions with Kyrie in the very near future.” 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, offered his strongest reaction yet to the episode on Thursday, before video of Irving’s latest comments circulated. 

“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material,” Silver said in a statement. “While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize. I will be meeting with Kyrie in person in the next week to discuss this situation.”

Silver’s comments came after many across sports urged him, the NBA and the Nets to punish Irving for his actions. Former NBA star and TV analyst Charles Barkley, who has a Jewish son-in-law, called Silver out specifically. 

“I think Adam should have suspended him. First of all, Adam’s Jewish. You can’t take my $40 million and insult my religion,” Barkley said Tuesday, referencing Irving’s contract.


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