“This is bigger than basketball,” Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai tweeted after condemning Kyrie Irving’s spreading of an antisemitic documentary. The following night, Irving was still in uniform and scored 35 points in a loss to the Indiana Pacers. Irving’s tweet may have been bigger than basketball, but that didn’t appear to stop him from playing basketball.
In the days since, Irving has been offered opportunity after opportunity to flatly apologize for spreading hate speech. On each occasion, he has offered all kinds of word vomits to do anything but. When asked directly whether he was antisemitic in a yes or no question, he didn’t say no.
When the Anti-Defamation League made itself available to Irving to have a conversation about the potential harm his actions might have caused, he sent his father and stepmother in his stead.
Irving also isn’t some teenager who fell down a rabbit hole on YouTube that would lead them to believe all kinds of nonsense. He’s 30 years old. He merely acts childishly, but he’s no child. So this insistence on infantilizing him and blaming anyone from Amazon for carrying the documentary to the makers of it for his actions has grown tired, too. That film is available to all kinds of people and he made the decision, unlike just about anyone with any decency, to share it with the millions who follow him on social media.
Irving is going to continue to double, triple and quadruple down. Based on what he’s shown the last couple of seasons, I guess we should find it surprising he was still capable of this kind of defense.
All this has, undeniably, depreciated his market. We know the Lakers were interested over the summer. We know part of the reason they wanted to maintain cap space for this summer is because he’ll be a free agent.
This last week should have ended any and all interest. Flat out.
The Lakers, and the rest of the league, will have an opportunity this summer to prove, unlike Tsai’s empty tweet (which preceded him reportedly hiring currently suspended Ime Udoka of all people), that this is indeed bigger than basketball.
Sure, Irving could actually educate himself. He could use this as an opportunity to show how someone can grow through their mistakes. He could do those things, but based on how he’s treated those opportunities to this point, would you bet on it? Me neither.
The sad part here is: Because of how sports work (or frankly, the world), Irving will merely be the latest to prove how talent comes before principle. Some team will overlook Irving’s actions this week and sign him this summer so long as the price is low enough. Hell, it’s not like the Nets are in some rush to waive him now, are they? As the Lakers market themselves as an open and accepting organization, though, they can’t be that team.
Let some other team take on the headache. Let some other organization answer questions about the message they’re sending to fans of the Jewish faith by bringing him in. Let some other franchise try to deal with the next thing Irving is going to get into that calls into question his commitment to the sport.
The opportunity will present itself to the Lakers to bring him in if it hasn’t already. Whether it’s at the 20-game mark of this season, at the trade deadline, or into this offseason, unless Irving shows actual remorse, the Lakers should let him be some other team’s problem.
This week in the “Lakers Lounge,” I spoke to Harrison Faigen about all this after a (fun, I promise!) conversation about last night’s win over New Orleans and whether Westbrook thriving in this role off the bench has changed whether we think the Lakers need to trade him.
You can listen to the full episode below, and to make sure you never miss a show, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.