Kyrie Irving is once again finding himself at the center of controversy, this time involving an incident at a recent Dallas Mavericks game against the Utah Jazz. Two rabbis attending the game claim they were told by security to remove signs saying “I’m a Jew and I’m proud” after Irving lodged a complaint. However, both the Mavericks organization and Irving himself have strongly denied these allegations.
Rabbis’ Account of Sign Removal
Rabbi Benny Zippel and Rabbi Yehuda Oziel stated they brought signs to the Mavericks-Jazz game on January 2nd that read “I’m a Jew and I’m proud.” The rabbis said the signs were in response to Irving’s recent sharing of an antisemitic film and suspension.
According to the rabbis, shortly after tip-off they were approached by security and told the signs violated the arena’s sign policy. Zippel claimed security first covered up the signs before asking the rabbis to put them away, telling them “we are giving you the courtesy to put them away but if you don’t, we have the right to take them.”
The rabbis allege that after pressing security for more details, they were informed that Irving or a member of the Mavericks organization had complained about the signs.
“We were told that either Kyrie Irving or the Mavericks had complained about the signs, I’m not sure which,” Zippel told NBC News.
Mavericks and Irving Strongly Dispute Claims
Both the Mavericks organization and Irving himself have strongly pushed back on the rabbis’ accounts.
The Mavericks released a statement saying neither Irving nor anyone from their organization lodged a complaint:
“The Dallas Mavericks did not request anyone to remove their signs last night at our game. In fact, we respect all views and welcome freedom of expression in accordance with the arena policy.”
Irving also directly addressed the incident on Twitter, denying he or anyone on the Mavericks asked for the signs to be removed:
False Narrative!! Not True, I was not even aware of the Signs…So Unfair.
— Hélà🧿 (@KyrieIrving) January 4, 2024
In a later interview, Irving expanded on his tweet, claiming he would “never want to disrespect anyone’s religious beliefs.”
Differing Policies on Signs
Part of the confusion around the incident may stem from differing arena policies on signs and banners. Signs in Vivint Arena, where the game took place, cannot obstruct other fans’ views or contain objectionable content.
However, in the Mavericks’ home arena signs are generally more freely allowed, leading to questions if Irving or his team thought the rabbis’ signs violated a policy that wasn’t actually in place.
|Vivint Arena (Utah Jazz home arena)
|Cannot obstruct other fans’ views or contain objectionable content
|American Airlines Center (Dallas Mavericks home arena)
|More freely allowed
Past Antisemitic Comments Still Loom Large
While Irving denies any involvement in this latest incident, it comes less than two months after he was suspended for sharing antisemitic content online and not clearly apologizing.
Irving was suspended a minimum of five games in November after posting a link to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a film containing deeply troubling antisemitic material. He defended the post and refused to apologize before eventually writing he opposed “all forms of hatred and oppression.”
Many saw the suspension and apology as too little too late, including NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:
“While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize.”
Silver’s comments echo the sentiments of many who believe Irving has still not shown true understanding or remorse for spreading hateful ideology.
The questions around this recent Jazz game incident have only heightened existing tensions, despite Irving’s denial. For critics, this is just the latest example of Irving failing to provide leadership during a sensitive situation involving inequality and discrimination.
Uncertain Path Forward
It remains unclear if there is concrete evidence to support either side’s account of this sign removal incident. Without further proof, Rabbi Zippel has said he sees “no reason to escalate this.”
However, this latest controversy shows issues around Irving’s judgment and relationship with the Jewish community persist. How Irving responds going forward, along with any further details about this incident that may emerge, will be closely watched.
Many hope this can be an opportunity for greater dialogue and understanding between Irving, the league, and the Jewish community. But only time will tell if substantive progress is made after over two months of lingering tensions.
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