Nets are taking advice from the ADL on Kyrie Irving controversy — but Irving isn’t joining in


(JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League is working with the Brooklyn Nets after star player Kyrie Irving tweeted a link to an antisemitic film.

But Irving himself hasn’t yet been in contact with the group, both the ADL and Nets said, and he has not made any public comments since announcing after a game Saturday night that he would “not stand down.” He did not speak to reporters after the Nets’ win on Monday, a day after deleting the tweet without comment.

“Let’s let him simmer down,” Nets General Manager Sean Marks said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Let’s let cooler minds prevail. We need to educate ourselves, educate the whole group and get some direction. Seek from the experts, and the experts, one of them certainly is the ADL.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he is “optimistic that we will be in direct discussions with Kyrie in the very near future.” Ultimately, Greenblatt said he believed that the ADL and Irving would undergo  “a process of educating him and of healing together.”

The team’s experience is a departure from the script often followed after  prominent entertainers or athletes express or amplify antisemitism. Often, the public figure apologizes and demonstrates interest in learning more about Jews and the hatred they face — as was the case with NBA player Meyers Leonard last year. But both Irving and another figure to land in hot water in recent weeks, rapper Kanye West, have not immediately followed that playbook, putting pressure on their colleagues and business partners to act instead. 

In Irving’s case, his team is looking for guidance about how to foster a climate that’s free of hate without the participation so far of a star player who frequently stokes controversy.

“We’re involved with the ADL and getting their advice,” Marks said in the press conference. “Hopefully, they can advise us. There is no tolerance and no room for any hate speech or any antisemitic remarks whatsoever, whether it’s in this organization or any organization for that matter.”

Greenblatt recalled that in January 2020, following a wave of antisemitic attacks in Brooklyn, the Nets donned the ADL’s “No Place for Hate” shirts during their warmups. “The team has historically been very responsive on these issues,” he said.

On Monday, fans wearing “Fight Antisemitism” shirts sat courtside during a game at Barclays Center. They said Irving approached them and said he was “grateful.”

Irving will have to answer questions more publicly at some point, said Marks, who said he wants to address the issue “in the right form and fashion.”

“I think the last postgame meeting didn’t go well,” he said. “We’re not trying to cover it up. This is something that needs to be addressed.” 

The press conference followed the announcement that the team was parting ways with head coach Steve Nash, just seven games into the new season. His departure is not related to the Irving situation, Marks said.

“We try and separate the two things,” he said. “It’s easy to lump it all in, but we’re trying to separate the basketball side of things and what’s best for this team moving on.”

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