The Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Deni Avdija, a Washington Wizards forward from Israel, said Friday that they hoped Nets guard Kyrie Irving understood that he had hurt people when he promoted an antisemitic film on social media.
Calling Irving a role model and great player who had made a mistake, Avdija said: “I don’t think it’s right to go out in public and publish it and let little kids that follow you see it and the generations to come after to think like that because it’s not true. And I don’t think it’s fair.”
On Thursday, the Nets suspended Irving for at least five games, after he would not say that he did not have antisemitic beliefs. It had been a week since he tweeted a link to an antisemitic film and posted a screenshot of its online rental page to Instagram. He apologized late Thursday night, after he was suspended.
James, who won an N.B.A. championship with Irving in Cleveland in 2016, said that he loved Irving but that what he had done was “unfortunate.”
“I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people,” James said Friday in Los Angeles after the Lakers lost to the Utah Jazz. He added: “If you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t condone it.”
In 2018, James apologized for posting music lyrics on Instagram that included the phrase “getting that Jewish money.”
“I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t through the lens of a lot of people,” James said at the time.
Few current N.B.A. players have spoken about Irving amid the public backlash to his social media posts. The N.B.A. said it had 120 international players at the start of the season last month, but Avdija was the only one from Israel. His comments about Irving came after the Nets beat the Wizards in Washington in the Nets’ first game since Irving’s suspension.
“I think there need to be consequences for the actions that players do,” Avdija said. “I don’t know the amount, the punishment that the league gives, but I think it needs to be known that there’s no room for words like that.”
Irving did not add captions or comments to his social media posts about the antisemitic 2018 film, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” But over the past week, he has been vague when asked what he did and did not agree with in the film. He has distanced himself from its claim that the Holocaust did not happen. On Wednesday, he announced with the Anti-Defamation League that he would donate $500,000 to anti-hate causes. The Nets said they would do the same.
But Irving did not apologize at that time, drawing criticism from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the N.B.A. Hall of Famer who is known for his social justice work.
“There was no explicit apology — which tells us everything about what he really believes,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a post on Substack. “Honestly, there’s little hope that he will change because he’s insulated by fame and money and surrounded by yes-people. There is no motivation to learn how to distinguish propaganda from facts. All that’s left is for the world to decide how it should respond to him.”
Abdul-Jabbar also praised three former players who criticized Irving during a TNT broadcast of the Nets’ game against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday: Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller.
Avdija said he hoped Irving was sorry. “He needs to understand that he gives example to people, and people look up to him,” he said.