Kyrie Irving is back on the field, but the aftershocks are still very real away from him


New York – Sunday morning, Kyrie Irving He addressed the media for the first time since his suspension Brooklyn Networks On November 4, in punishment for his decision to promote an anti-Semitic film on his social media accounts and then defend the action in multiple press conferences.

“The teaching lesson for me was just the strength of my platform and the impact it can have if it’s not looked after in the right way,” said Irving, who missed eight games. “So meeting with different people within the Jewish community has given me some clarity about a deeper understanding of what’s going on and the impact that’s been done and the harm that’s been done.”

[Must-read: Suspending Kyrie Irving is only a step toward acknowledging the damage done]

I was not present at this press conference. I was in a cemetery in New Jersey, burying my wife’s grandmother, Mila Bachner, who died Friday night and who, 83 years ago, at the age of 12, had been taken from her home in Poland and conscripted to work in a Nazi concentration camp. Mila survived. Most of her family did not. The Nazis killed her parents and four of her five siblings. One of the two brothers who were sent to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp was shot dead for stealing a piece of bread.

I spent Sunday morning hearing this story and others. How Mila was selected for slave labor and how that made her one of the lucky ones. How was her job in a concentration camp to get rid of the dead? How about 1944, with the Allied forces closing in, the Nazis commandeer her along with hundreds of others to march Hundreds of miles in the freezing cold.

I’ve also heard how Mila, after somehow surviving these horrors, and after arriving at Ellis Island and making a home in Passaic, NJ — about five miles from where the Nets used to play their home games — made it her life’s mission to share Her story, and the story of the Holocaust, to ensure #NeverAgain becomes a reality and not just a slogan. I have spoken in public schools across the country. registered Interview with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I wrote a book.

I listened to these stories and then caught a train to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, so I got to see Irving’s first game.

“Right now we’re just here to make this effort to make the world more equal,” Irving told reporters that morning, apparently acknowledging the power of his words and the influence of his platform after downplaying it in previous interviews.

For a moment, Irving seemed to realize this Risks by directing his millions of social media followers to a film describing Jews as being involved in a cover-up “to prevent black people from learning their true identity”, and featuring a quote misattributed to Adolf Hitler.

But Irving, just as he did in his two media briefings after the post, and in Interview with SNY On Saturday night, he stopped short of denouncing the film, which has moved up Amazon’s ranking in the wake of Irving’s involvement. He said the film “ended up exploring and opening my mind to more than I can put into words now. So, I think there are deeper conversations I’d like to have in terms of the genealogy of the Hebrews and about the genealogy of more of our cultures here and abroad.”

Instead, Irving focused his attention on the “anti-Semitic” label. He explained why, in his view, someone with his background — he noted that he grew up in West Orange, NJ, a town he described as a “melting pot” that had a large Jewish population — and with his love for all people of all faiths could not be anti-Semitic. .

“How can you call someone an anti-Semite when you don’t know them?” Irving asked. “I have no track record of anything like that.”

Exiting the Atlantic Terminal on my way to the game, I was greeted by about 100 people in the plaza outside the Barclays Center, wearing purple and yellow vests and chanting words of support for Irving and, more specifically, the themes of the movie he had promoted.

A man handed me a white pamphlet that said “The Truth About Anti-Semitism” in big black letters on the front page. I later learned that the demonstration was led by an organization called Israel United in Christ, a fringe organization he considers Southern Poverty Law Center to be a hate group.

The game started after two hours. Irving received a standing ovation from the fans during the starting lineup introductions. Then he scored 14 points in the Nets’ 127-115 win over… Memphis Grizzlies.

After the match, he was brought into the media room. An Irving reporter reported on the demonstration taking place outside the square. Irving asked his opinion.

“I think that’s a conversation for another day,” Irving said. “I’m just here to focus on the game.”

Another reporter noted that earlier that morning, Irving said he had never before realized the power of his platform.

“And these people are here in your name,” the reporter noted. “Do you feel it as a result of what you did?”

“Again, I’m just here to focus on the game,” Irving replied.

Next was a question about Ben SimmonsImpressive performance Irving was more than happy to answer. Then Irving was asked another question unrelated to Sunday night’s game — whether he and the NBA planned to file a complaint against the Nets about how they handled Irving’s punishment.

Irving replied, “I’ve got some very strong people around me, men and women, who will do everything they can to make sure that I’m protected, that my family is protected, that we protect each other.” “So I’m sure some things will be done in the future, but there’s no timetable for that at the moment.”

Finally, I asked Irving how, just a few hours ago, he spoke of wanting to use his platform for good and as a unifying force, and how he is now being asked about things that are said in his name and in response. Film promoted. How did he go about deciding when it was time to use his platform as a tool for good and when to commit to the sport?

Irving replied, “I’d like to be on a platform where I can honestly share how I feel without getting slammed, 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 recognizes who Ky is and what I stand for, my tribe. That’s it.”

Soon after, I was walking outside and heading back towards the subway. It was late and quiet, except for the wind, which was sweeping some loose leaflets across the square. As I sat on the train and thought about my day, I thought not about who deserves to be labeled an anti-Semite and who doesn’t, but rather about the part of the film promoted by Irving that claims Jews fabricated the Holocaust.

And I thought how now, like any other survivor, Mila Bachner could no longer be called upon to share her story.

Yaron Weitzman is a FOX Sports NBA writer and author Rise to the Top: The Philadelphia ’76ers and the Most Daring Operation in Professional Sports History. Follow him on Twitter @employee.


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