By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving said Saturday that he believes in all religions, two days after he appeared to show support to an antisemitic film.
The NBA, meanwhile, waded into the matter by condemning hate speech in a statement, but did not mention Irving by name or make any direct reference to his latest controversial storyline.
“I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs,” read a tweet posted to Irving’s account. “The ‘Anti-Semitic’ label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday. I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions.”
Nets owner Joe Tsai said Friday he is disappointed that Irving appears to support a film “based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation.” The Nets’ star guard posted a link for the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on Twitter on Thursday. The synopsis on Amazon said the film “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel.”
Irving was playing in the Nets’ game Saturday against Indiana.
“The organization has spoken to Kyrie about it,” said Nets coach Steve Nash, who did not divulge specifics of what that meant.
Tsai and the Nets reacted quickly to the latest trouble stirred up by Irving, who had previously supported the idea of the Earth being flat and last month on social media shared an old clip from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
“I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion,” Tsai wrote on Twitter regarding Irving.
The NBA on Saturday said “hate speech of any kind is unacceptable.”
“We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions,” the league said.
It was not clear if that meant the league has spoken to Irving, or plans to speak to him on the matter.
Irving was unavailable for most of the Nets’ home games last season because he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as was mandated in New York City. The Nets then declined to give him a contract extension this summer, meaning Irving could be in his final season with the team.
“The Brooklyn Nets strongly condemn and have no tolerance for the promotion of any form of hate speech,” the team said in a statement. “We believe that in these situations, our first action must be open, honest dialogue. We thank those, including the ADL, who have been supportive during this time.”
Nash was asked Saturday if he felt if the latest Irving storyline was a distraction to the team.
“I don’t think our group is overly affected by the situation,” Nash said. “We’ve had so many situations over the last 2-1/2 years that I think we’ve kind of built an immunity to some of it. I also think our guys aren’t that familiar with the material.”
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story.
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