NOTE: After the following post was written, the Anti-Defamation League, the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving sent out a statement – which issued no apology. But the ADL got some coin. Carry on …
Charles Barkley apparently has better PR sense than the Brooklyn Nets, National Basketball Association or its player’s organization.
Anti-Semitism reared its ugly head again and this time, Barkley, the Hall of Fame basketball player turned Emmy Award-winning analyst for the NBA on TNT, was having none of it. He said that the Nets, NBA and NBAPA look bad for not penalizing point guard Kyrie Irving who on Twitter, linked to the movie, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” which is based on a book of the same name. Among other things, it suggests the Holocaust was a lie. (Unfortunately, the World War II event was horrifically true for millions of people.)
Athletes, coaches and others should speak their minds. but when their words become dangerous and fuel evil tropes is when civility ceases to exist regardless of intent.
“It’s too late, now,” Barkley said (November 1) if any of the above change course. “The reason it’s too late is that the NBA has given in to peer pressure. If one of our players does something, the team or the league has to do something immediately. This should have been handled already.”
That, in a nutshell, are Chapters 1, 2 and 120 of the PR crisis communications handbook.
For a professional athlete of Irving’s stature and a sports league that’s often spotlighted as THE example of diversity, the events of the last week are stunning.
Lots to take in
Much has been said about the unapologetic Irving who took his out-there persona to an unacceptable, level. His approach is Kanye West-like at this point and it’s confounding how none of the NBA organizations seem to mind.
To be sure, the Nets, NBA and NBAPA issued statements that we assume are about Irving’s comments and social media posts, but in a dereliction of journalistic standards, they don’t identify why or about whom the statements are written. In professional PR and journalism, vague doesn’t play. So why these?
Roll back expectation
If I had a nickel for every time … but maybe as fans, we need to stop expecting better from people we cheer and leagues we follow. That way we can save the digital space and emotion when they disappoint us. Anti-Semitism and racism were already smoldering. Irving and his enablers added gasoline.
Read these, please
There are two pieces about this issue I can’t recommend enough. Each touch on Black vs. Jewish relations. USA Today Race and Inequality editor, Mike Freeman wrote about growing up a Black child in a diverse community and how it’s shaped him as an adult. The Nation’s Dave Zirin explains the history behind Jewish people vs. Black people and other inter-community undercurrents that feed into dangerously hateful discourse. Each is worth your time.