Rob Hunt: Anti-Semitism has no place in sports ... or in life

Nov. 3—Apparently, commenting on the idiocy of Kyrie Irving is going to become an annual event for me.

It was 354 days ago I last wrote of the Nets star guard when his ill-informed stance on the COVID-19 vaccine jeopardized his team's success.

Well, this week, the noted "flat-earther" is once again under fire for what he has said and promoted on his social media platforms.

This time, however, it isn't something stupid as saying the globe is somehow flat or even anything as debatable as medicine. It's something far mare dark and flat out dangerous.

He posted a link to a film that promotes antisemitic tropes and beliefs, and — coming on the heels of the bigoted statements from Kanye West — this seems to be the part of a sad, growing movement of sheer hate toward the Jewish people.

It is part of a terrifying trend where this bigotry is spreading and almost becoming normalized. When people like Irving — who has 4.5 million Twitter followers — and West spew this nonsense, there are enough unhinged people who will both believe it and act on it.

Does it come as any surprise in the aftermath of their posts people were on interstate overpasses hoisting the Nazi salute and hanging banners that said "Kanye was right about the Jews" or some truly evil person projected those same sentiments on the outside of TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville during Florida's football game against Georgia?

Nearly 300,000 American soldiers died defeating the Nazis in Europe during World War II, but that obviously did not defeat the antisemitic beliefs that existed in this country at that time and persist to this day.

Hitler and the Nazis murdered 6 million people because of antisemitism, but it did not happen overnight and it did not start with camps and crematoriums. It began with anti-Jewish speech and propaganda from prominent state-controlled media, violent rallies and convincing citizens through fear and violence to do and say nothing to stop the ramp up that culminated with genocide.

I'll be damned if I'm going to say and do nothing, and I'm encouraged others are doing the same.

A group of fans with courtside seats at the Barclays Center donned t-shirts proclaiming "Fight Anti-Semitism" when Irving and the Nets returned to Brooklyn and defeated Indiana.

Irving claims to have learned something from this, and — although he has yet to apologize — he did acknowledge the responsibility he has in a statement. He and the Nets are donating $500,000 each to anti-hate groups in the aftermath as a form of restitution.

When Desean Jackson made similar comments that bordered on praise of Hitler and antisemitic preacher Louis Farrakhan, there was outcry from the few Jewish players in the NFL, including Julian Edelman and Mitchell and Geoff Schwartz. They maintained — and I agree — these statements are more a result of ignorance than actual hate.

I have to believe that is also the case for Irving. The guy got into Duke and that couldn't have been just for basketball, right? While they don't let dummies into Duke, something was missing from Irving's education in addition to basic geography.

I was an ignorant freshman in high school when I auditioned for and received a part in our school's production of "The Diary of Anne Frank." My English teacher, Dolphus Stephens, was the director for the play and became my favorite high school instructor ever.

During rehearsals, he reserved a time for us to gather and watch films from the liberation of the death camps, and it's something I've never forgotten.

I don't know what is being taught about the Holocaust in high schools today, but it is apparent it isn't enough. The best way to fight disinformation, propaganda and ignorance is through education.

Maybe that will prevent some antisemitic statements and beliefs from future Kyrie Irvings.

The idea of history repeating itself is not a new one, and it is a belief that has origins traced to numerous sources.

But my favorite is from Mark Twain, who said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes."

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.