NBA’s Kyrie Irving saga is an abdication of leadership, a blow to the brand

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The NBA was engulfed in unrelenting controversy, orchestrated by the league’s favorite arsonist, and the world’s most powerful professional athletes sat back and watched, willing to watch it all go down in flames.

In the days after Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving tweeted a link to a heavily promotional film with anti-Semitic themes, his outspoken friends said nothing. In 2020, the kind expected of their white coaches and peers could have shown the players how to be allies, but they did nothing.

Their collective silence revealed the worst of empowerment and exclusivity, along with their union statement (52 Toothless Words of the National Basketball Players Association). And we saw this problem at all levels. The thin blue line that protects even a thug just by wearing a badge. Politicians who stick with their party’s talking points rather than show basic human compassion for violence perpetrated on an elderly victim. Now, of course, the band of brothers fighting together against racial injustice and hate speech as long as the perpetrator is not one of their own.

Irving is his own kind of Molotov cocktail. He threw straight into the league. He created the worst kind of PR that allowed years of goodwill to burn out with hypocrisy.

The NBA and its players have done a great deal of work using the league as a vehicle to promote issues such as suffrage and focus on black businesses within the black community. They spoke out against the killing of Trayvon Martin because they saw their own sons looking into his young black face. They wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts because the last words of a black man dying at the hands of the police could be their own.

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But as a so-called “progressive” league, their advocacy should not end only with causes they can relate to and crises they care about.

On the morning of Oct. 28, after Irving’s tweet went viral overnight, the first thing NBA commissioner Adam Silver should have done was call Irving, who was a city away, into his office in Manhattan. It took Silver a week to publicly address the biggest threat to his league.

Obviously, Silver, who is Jewish, has had to stay awake for the past few weeks and see Kanye West cancel. After West’s anti-Semitic remarks, corporations vied with each other to be the first to distance themselves from him. The response to West from global brands like Gap and Adidas should be top of mind for Silver, who will be tasked with growing the sport’s business for as long as he’s in charge. So what could have happened other than breaking the glass and putting out this fire that Irving set in an emergency last week?

The NBA once, under then-commissioner David Stern, fined a player (JR Smith) for posting a photo of a scantily clad woman on his Twitter account. That monumental decision cost Smith $25,000, which was for a millionaire athlete, but enough to send a message that if you’re going to be a representative of this global enterprise, there’s a standard to live up to.

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But silver fell. Maybe he was looking to do the right thing on the dysfunctional Nets, but they were busy finding a way to fire Steve Nash, the only older coach in the room, and hire Ime Udoka, whose leadership skills were shakier. .

Silver should not wait. But the players who run this league were also silent.

It should have been easy for the NBPA to call Irwin by name and condemn the anti-Semitic film he promoted to millions of followers in the same sentence. Instead, it issued a vanilla statement — the episode about the Sesame Street race was tougher than anything the NBPA offered — and the players were either quiet or not as forceful on other topics.

Irving’s friend and teammate Kevin Durant spoke about the matter on Friday. However, given his choice of words, Durant’s team seemed more concerned with issuing Irving a suspension of no less than five games (the proper move, even days after the offense). Durant never called Irving out for his actions.

“I’m not here to judge anybody or talk down about how anybody feels, their outlook or anything,” Durant said. “I didn’t like anything that went. I feel it is all unnecessary. I felt like we could have been quieter as an organization playing basketball. I don’t like any of that. “

That is never a good thing A follow-up tweet should be sent To clarify the comments, Durant attempted to: “I do not condone hate speech or anti-Semitism. [stet], I always spread the love. I want to make sure that our game unites people and is at the forefront.

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On Friday evening, after Durant and the Nets handed the Wizards a 128-86 loss at Capital One Arena, Washington opened its locker room to reporters. One by one we went to the booth where Denny Avdija was sitting shirtless looking at his phone. Avdijah, the only known Jewish player in the league, knew why the crowds would gather. He agreed to answer a few questions, but first wanted to pose and put on some more clothes. When Avdija could not find a shirt, he asked a nearby servant for one. Then teammate Daniel Gafford, who overheard the request, pushed a gray warm tee over Avdija’s shoulder, which was buttoned up next to his own shirt.

In that micro moment, Avdija had someone looking out for his best interests. a friend But in the days after Irving’s tweet, where were those colleagues?

While Irwin played with the matches, the players watched the fire grow. They traded their power for a twisted code of silence, making their Union and League look impotent. They may have wanted to stay out of Irving’s mess, either for their own self-preservation or to help their peers, but this desire to protect the chosen few at all costs is irreparably damaging the brand.

They made themselves look weak by choosing to save their friends’ reputations over protecting the League. Although they considered themselves thought leaders, they dribbled with their mouths shut.


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