Over 100 demonstrators wearing Black Hebrew Israelite branding marched and rallied outside of Barclays Center on Sunday night to mark Kyrie Irving’s first game back from an eight-game suspension for sharing a film containing anti-semitic tropes.
Quote tweeting a video of the group, Jaylen Brown seemed to show them support, saying energy.
Brown drew immediate backlash for his apparent endorsement. The people shown in the video shared pamphlets referring to Jewish people as the synagogue of Satan under the title — the truth about antisemitism — according to Sopan Deb of the NY Times.
Brown tweeted hours later, clarifying that he mistook the group for Omega Psi Phi, a historically Black college fraternity that wears similar a similar purple brand to the ones HBI members wore outside of Barclays. Brown further explained his decision further on Monday at shootaround, referencing the recent shooting death of Atlanta rapper Takeoff and saying his instinct led him to embrace Black people coming together in support of Irving.
I was not aware of what specific group that was outside of Barclay’s Center tonight. I was celebrating the unification of our people welcoming the return of Kyrie to the court, first glance I thought it was a known fraternity the (C/Que’s) Omega psi phi (step’n) showing support— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) November 21, 2022
“I didn’t have my reading glasses on,” he said. “I didn’t know who that group was. My instinct when I first saw that video was, I come from a community torn every day by systemic representation and imagery of violence in our community, so when I saw that video, it struck a chord for different reasons.”
“I saw a large group of people from our community showing support for (Kyrie) and his return, so me being proud of that support and being proud of our community for doing that does not mean I endorse or celebrate some of the things that were being done or being said.”
Inside Barclays Center, Irving wasn’t aware of the demonstration by the group wearing shirts that said Israel United in Christ, and avoided questions regarding his suspension and the group, saying he’ll address it on another day. He directed attention toward the game.
Brown, as vice president of the NBAPA, defended Irving and criticized Joe Tsai and the Nets’ handling of his suspension, originally slated for five games before Tsai said Irving had more work to do. Brown accused Nike of hypocrisy in dropping their endorsement of Irving.
The Nets laid out six steps for Irving to return to the floor, which Shams Charania reported Irving went above-and-beyond, while both Tsai and NBA commissioner Adam Silver deemed Irving isn’t anti-semitic after meeting with him.
Irving, in an Instagram post and interview with SNY, apologized for sharing the film after initially bristling at questions about it in two press conferences before Brooklyn suspended him. Brown also criticized media coverage of his tweet on Monday.
“I didn’t notice which group it was,” Brown said. “I just noticed the support, and that’s what I commented on, and I reemphasized that I don’t think that everything that’s being said or being done is something that I endorse or represent, but in the future, when I’m a father, and I’m not yet, I would like my son or daughter to see more representations of people of color, Brown people and Black people standing together on issues, rather than seeing images of violence in our media, in our music, in our movies that we don’t entirely promote or profit from. Those are my thoughts and I think any media group or person, in attempt to (contort) my words or (contort) my attempts to support someone clearly has an agenda.”
Brown decided not to delete the tweet, he said, because it would’ve taken as withdrawing support for Irving. He repeated he wasn’t aware of the group instead of addressing their designation as misogynystic, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic and antisemitic hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti Defamation League.
Brown only embraced the group’s support of Irving, who he thought should’ve been celebrated for his return to the floor. Brown also referred to Irving’s suspension as an exile.
“Our society has more work to do,” Brown said last week. “It’s 2022, it takes 10 minutes of time to see who these business owners, corporations, etc., who they’re doing business with and who they’re affiliated with. I’m vice president of the union, and it’s part of my job to protect our players legally. To see Phil Knight, first, come out and condemn Kyrie, then also see Joe Tsai say he has more work to do, I think it’s time for a larger conversation ...”
“ ... I don’t think Kyrie meant any harm by posting (the film), obviously it came off as insensitive to a lot of people, but Adam came out with a statement, he doesn’t believe Kyrie is antisemitic. Joe Tsai came out and said a statement that they don’t believe he is antisemitic. Those are their words, he’s already apologized formally ... but the comment that Joe Tsai made, which I feel like bothered a lot of people, is (Irving) has more work to do. What does that mean? Our society has more work to do, including Joe Tsai.”