Kyrie Irving returned to the Barclays Center after serving more than a two-week suspension, with support outside coming from a group of Black Hebrew Israelites.
The Brooklyn Nets star was suspended on Nov. 4 after he publicized an anti-Semitic film on social media and refused to apologize or say that he doesn’t hold anti-Semitic beliefs. He returned on Sunday for the game between the Nets and Memphis Grizzlies.
BROOKLYN NETS SUSPEND KYRIE IRVING FOR FAILING TO ‘DISAVOW ANTISEMITISM’
The crowd of Black Hebrew Israelites stood outside the arena handing out fliers. A video caught the group walking toward the Barclays Center in support of Irving’s return, chanting “We are the real Jews” and “Time to wake up.”
After the game, Irving expressed his wishes for free speech during a press conference.
“I would like to be on a platform where I could openly share how I feel without being harshly criticized or being labeled or dealing with outside perceptions that have nothing to do with me,” Irving said.
Jaylen Brown, a Boston Celtics small forward, quote tweeted a video from NBA Central that showed the Black Hebrew Israelites’ demonstration with the caption “Energy.”
However, after receiving backlash, he clarified on Twitter in a separate post that he did not know which group had come to support Irving, believing it to be fraternities.
“I was not aware of what specific group that was outside of Barclay’s Center tonight,” Brown wrote. “I was celebrating the unification of our people welcoming the return of Kyrie to the court, first glance I thought it was a known fraternity the (C/Que’s) Omega psi phi (step’n) showing support.”
The Black Hebrew Israelites have been in the spotlight since 2019, when a group of members was accused of shouting obscenities at high school students from Covington Catholic high school in Kentucky participating in the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
High schooler Nick Sandmann, who, like others, was wearing “Make America Great Again” apparel, originally came under fire for standing in front of Omaha elder Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist.
In the original viral video, the students were seen mocking and dancing nearby, allegedly making fun of Phillips and others there for the Indigenous Peoples March.
However, another video emerged after the first that showed high schoolers engaging with Black Hebrew Israelite protesters prior to Phillips’s arrival. Sandmann claimed that they wanted to drown out the allegedly hateful comments being shouted at them as a reason for his actions toward Phillips.
The Omaha elder explained in interviews he wanted to separate the two groups, stating that the old black men were outnumbered and “prey” for the high schoolers. The Black Hebrew Israelites have said they are being used as scapegoats for the Covington students.