Web star Kyrie Irving is no stranger to controversy, and he seems unwilling to bow amid more turmoil.
Despite heavy criticism, Irving doubled down in defense of his latest tweet promoting an anti-Semitic movie Saturday night after his team’s 125-116 home loss to the Pacers.
“Have I done anything illegal? Have I hurt anyone?” Irving asked reporters about the tweet. “Did I hurt anyone? Do I come out and say I hate a certain group of people?”
The news conference was tense at times with a dismissive Irving grabbing reporters and saying he doesn’t “expect understanding from a media conglomerate group.”
“I’m not going to back down for something I believe in,” Irving said. “I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me.”
That statement echoed his tweet from earlier in the day, when he stood by his decision to promote the controversial film Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America. In that tweet defending himself, he said in part, “The ‘anti-Semitic’ label thrust upon me is unjustified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in every day.”
However, the Nets condemned his decision late Friday night, and owner Joe Tsai followed it up with a statement of his own expressing his disappointment with Irving’s stance. he tweetedin part, “I want to sit down and make sure he understands that this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, promoting hatred based on race, ethnicity or religion is wrong.”
The NBA also released a statement in the wake of the matter, condemning hate speech, although it did not specifically name Irving.
Nets coach Steve Nash addressed the situation ahead of Saturday’s game, but he didn’t go into specifics, saying only that the franchise “has talked to Kyrie about it.”
Irving said he understands Tsai’s position but said he did nothing malicious.
The tweet remains as of Sunday morning.
Irving was also asked about his recent posts bolstering conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has been ordered to pay nearly $1 billion in damages after losing a lawsuit over his false claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was a hoax.
“That was a few weeks ago,” Irving said. “I don’t stand with Alex Jones’ position, story, court case that he had with Sandy Hook, or any of the kids who felt they had to relive the trauma or parents who had to relive the trauma, or to be dismissive of all the lives that went lost during the tragic event. My post was a post by Alex Jones that he did in the early 90’s or late 90’s about secret societies in the US of cults, and it’s true. So I didn’t identify with anything . .. for Alex Jones, it’s just there to post.”
He added, “And it’s funny, it’s actually funny, because of all the things I posted that day, that was the one post that everybody chose to see.”
When pressed about whether sharing Jones’ messages amounted to an endorsement, Irving said, “Don’t dehumanize me up here. I’m a different person. I can post whatever I want. So say it. So shut it down and move on to the next question.”