"Having the freedom of speech doesn't mean saying whatever you want, it means saying what's humane, hateless, and non-prejudicial."― Abhijit Naskar
Over the past few weeks, prominent celebrities and athletes have used their platforms to directly or indirectly express anti-semitic views. Among the most notable individual to have expressed such views is Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. On October 27th, 2022, Kyrie Irving posted a link to Ronald Dalton's "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America," which contains numerous anti-semitic tropes and pushes Nazi propaganda. Dalton claims that there are five major falsehoods pushed by the Jewish people, including but not limited to, "Six million Jews were killed in a holocaust during WWII." Further, Dalton states that these lies were fabricated by "the Jewish-controlled media in America."
It raises the question of what constitutes free speech under the First Amendment. The First Amendment holds, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Thus, the First Amendment protects American citizens from government interference with free speech. However, it does not prohibit privately owned corporations/businesses from enacting consequences for such speech. Remarkably, however, the NBA nor the NBPA has condemned nor disciplined Kyrie for his actions.
While the NBPA finally released a statement denouncing anti-semitism on November 1st, 2022, it is impossible to ignore that such a statement failed to condemn Kyrie Irving, one of the seven Vice Presidents on the NBPA Executive Committee. Additionally, On November 2nd, 2022, Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Anti-Defamation League released a joint statement in which Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets both pledged to donate $500,000 towards causes and groups that eradicate hate. Notably, Kyrie Irving never made an apology in the statement. Furthermore, Kyrie Irving stated, "I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true," yet, he failed to specify which parts he believed were factual and has continuously stated that he cannot be anti-semitic.
Let's compare this lack of response to how the NBA responded to Meyers Leonard when he used an anti-semitic slur. In March of 2021, Leonard used an anti-semitic slur while streaming himself playing a video game on Twitch. The NBA subsequently fined Leonard $50,000, the Miami Heat suspended Leonard and traded him, and Leonard met with Jewish leaders to atone for his anti-semitic slur.
The NBA's response to Kyrie? Thus far, silence. While on November 3rd, 2022, Commissioner Adam Silver announced that next week he would meet with Kyrie Irving; ultimately, their formal response remains to be seen. Such response could range from an admonishment to a fine to suspension with reinstatement requirements, including sensitivity training or even termination from the league. Hopefully, they will remain consistent with their Leonard response, and Kyrie will ultimately be required to take responsibility for his promulgation of anti-semitic rhetoric and hate speech.
Brandon Blumer is a 2L law student at New York Law School. You can connect with him via https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandonblumer or via Twitter @BlumerBrandon