Kyrie Irving spoke to reporters for more than 13 minutes at the Brooklyn Nets' practice facility on Sunday, hours before he is set to play his first game since the team suspended him on Nov. 4. He started with a statement that lasted more than three minutes, and then he took four questions.
Irving has missed eight games, was described as "currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets" in an official press release and had his shoe contract suspended by Nike because of an antisemitism scandal that started with him publicizing a film on social media. And yet, between his two defiant press conferences, his interview with SNY on Saturday and this latest session, he has said relatively little about the content of the film itself.
The last question he answered on Sunday, though, was straightforward: The crux of the movie is that Black people are the real Israelites from the Bible — what are your views on that?
"Well, that was the intent when I was watching the movie, was to have a deeper understanding of my family heritage and where I come from," Irving said. "And when I said I meant no harm, I meant that. To learn about the lost tribes of Israel, to learn about Black history in a way where it's not degrading anyone else's history is important to me."
Some context: The film he watched, "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America," is full of lies and conspiracy theories about Jewish people. It alleges that "false white Jews" are trying to "extort America" because they "know that the Negroes as the Real Children of Israel," using a fake quote from Adolf Hitler (with his first name spelled incorrectly) as supporting evidence. The film and the book that it is based on both feature unambiguous Holocaust denial.
As Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone, Diana Moskovitz of Defector, Yaron Weitzman of Fox Sports and Drew Magary of SFGate have explained, the film pushes the beliefs of the radical faction of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. Magary described it as "a fundamentally antisemitic work built around the belief that Black people are the original Hebrews, and that present-day Jews have stolen their identity and used it to run the world." (Not all Black Hebrew Israelites "claim an exclusive identity as the true chosen people of God and decry Jews as the impostors and thieves," but this is the belief of Radical Hebrew Israelites, who are classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)
In other words, if you want to learn about Black history from a reputable source, "Hebrews to Negores: Wake Up Black America" is not it. This is why one of the reported prerequisites for Irving to return to the court was to meet with the media and clearly state that the film is harmful and untrue and he is sorry for sharing it.