Kyrie Irving’s journey down the rabbit hole feels like a crossroads

It was inevitable that some top athletes would become top conspiracy theorists. If conspiracy and hatred are spreading everywhere, why would an athlete be immune?

Kyrie Irving isn’t the only American to fall down a hole and thinks he has found the light. He’s just the best basketball player who’s ever done it, just like Aaron Rodgers is the best football player who ever did it, that we know. This means, in any case, a very large microphone.

And so Saturday night after the Brooklyn Nets lost their fifth game in six tries, Irving stepped onto the podium. On Friday, the star ringleader posted a link to a movie called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” Rolling Stone reviewed the film, which is based on a book by the director, with ideas tied to “extreme factions of Black Hebrew Israelites, who have a long history of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia and above all of anti-Semitism”.

Thus, the film speculates on the links between Freemasonry, Judaism, Lucifer and Satan; he quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notoriously anti-Semitic text; he talks about the imaginary Jewish control of the media and Western thought in order “to help Satan deceive the world”. Odious.

Irving has played with flat earth theories, has been famous anti-COVID vaccine and recently posted a link to an old rant from one of America’s most obnoxious and hateful personalities, Alex Jones, about a New World Order, which is classic conspiracy junk. (Jones was just ordered to pay $1 billion to the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims, whom he lied about for nearly a decade.) Irving is one of those people who confuses contrarianism with intellect and truth.

Nets owner Joe Tsai expressed his disappointment in a statement, but Irving played on Saturday. The NBA issued a coy and toothless statement who didn’t even name Irving.

And after Saturday’s loss, Irving doubled down, mocking the media while refusing to take responsibility. He said, “I am not alone. I have a whole army around me. But also, “What I post does not mean that I support everything that is said.” He said, “I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence on my community” and, in a few breaths, “I’m no different than any other human being…you guys come here and compose this powerful influence that I have.

It was a trusting and contemptuous inconsistency.

It’s a classic conspiracy position: Irving pushes false or dangerous ideas obtained via YouTube and Google, then refuses to acknowledge that he could possibly be wrong, does not explain himself and, if so, the blowback convinces his annoying mind of the correctness he must have. be. Irving asked, “Did I do something illegal? Did I hurt someone? Did I hurt someone? Maybe someone should have mentioned it anti-Semitic hatred hit an all-time high in America in 2021, as tracked by the Anti-Defamation League, and that a celebrity spreading the idea that Jews are responsible for the evils of the world and are in cahoots with Satan can only make matters worse.

If you are the Nets, how can you support Irving in this? New York is home to the largest Jewish community in the world outside of Israel, and although the population has shrunk over the years, by some estimates one in four Brooklyn residents is Jewish. Kanye West just set his business empire on fire by repeatedly shouting the anti-Semitic wedge. He was a bigger celebrity than Kyrie, but he didn’t play for a professional sports franchise.

But from a basketball perspective, this edition of Brooklyn is over. Kevin Durant asked for a trade this summer and didn’t get it, Ben Simmons looks like a small-town guy in big-city traffic, and Irving seems to make it clear that if he wants to promote anti-Semitic movies, or Alex Jones, it won’t stop. The rest of the roster is relatively threadbare, the defense is a fire of grease and Canadian legend Steve Nash must be wondering why he decided to coach these guys, and maybe not for long. Irving is a basketball genius and Brooklyn’s biggest problem right now. Maybe the Lakers are so desperate. Maybe.

Irving also presents the face of a bigger problem: Online radicalization, misinformation and hate are all the rage. Elon Musk now owns Twitter, and on Sunday he pushed a deranged homophobic conspiracy theory regarding the radicalized, misinformation-based attack on US President Nancy Pelosi and her husband against Hillary Clinton, using a link to a post that previously claimed Clinton was, uh, dead.

So, of course, the infodemic reaches sports. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has already revealed how far he’s gone down the anti-vaccine rabbit hole; in Canada, former NHL star Theo Fleury and Jamie Sale, Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater are the faces of the COVID conspiracy. It’s terribly sad. Fleury said in a conversation with current Alberta Premier Danielle Smith – who is prone to her own conspiracy theory — that the onerous aspects of the pandemic reflected his own history of abuse. A tragedy.

As society grapples with radicalization online, professional sports will have to draw lines. The NBA has already been pushed to eject Suns owner Robert Sarver after his history of bad behavior came to light, and had to Minnesota star Anthony Edwards slightly fined for homophobic remarks done on a livestream. So far, the NBA has chosen the side of relative social responsibility. He also has to consider what Irving is doing.

Maybe the Nets go so far as to waive Irving; maybe the league suspends him; maybe neither is happening and another team is waiting. But it looks a bit like a crossroads, doesn’t it? As long as advertisers prefer to avoid hate, perhaps the prevailing dynamic of sports as a business in search of a more respectable clientele will prevail. Maybe.

Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, would be best served by trusted friends who would reach out and lead him back to a better place. But maybe it’s too late.

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