‘We’ve got to be consistent’: The Rev. Al Sharpton says it’s OK to criticize Kyrie Irving

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving looking up
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is serving a suspension of at least five games after posting a link to a movie that contains antisemitic material.
(Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday that it is OK for activists to criticize Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving for actions that have been perceived as antisemitic.

“I think that we need to really be careful that those of us that have fought racism in the Black community that we cannot in any way, even inadvertently, normalize being bigots against others,” Sharpton told TMZ. “... We’ve got to be consistent, and if people say things wrong, they need to be held to the same account that we know when people say things wrong about us.”

After using social media to share a link to a movie that contains antisemitic material last week, Irving was combative with reporters over the matter, refusing to apologize or state unequivocally that he has no antisemitic beliefs. It was only after he was suspended at least five games by the Nets for not taking responsibility for the actions that Irving finally did say he’s sorry.


Irving is said to have met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, on Tuesday.

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The controversy surrounding Irving comes amid backlash against hip-hop star Kanye West for repeated antisemitic remarks. Both men lost their shoe deals in recent days — Irving with Nike, West with Adidas.

Sharpton once faced similar criticism, for making comments some saw as fomenting antisemitic violence during riots in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood in the early 1990s.

Speaking to Jewish leaders in 2019, Sharpton acknowledged that he could have “done more to heal rather than harm” during the Crown Heights riots.

Decades after those events, Sharpton was asked Wednesday about Irving’s situation. The MSNBC host did not mention Irving specifically in his reply, but said it is important that people be allowed to hold each other accountable.

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“We fight against bigotry of all forms,” Sharpton said, “and bigotry cannot be normalized and victims cannot say that they’re going to victimize others.”

Sharpton did say he has not taken a position on when Irving should be allowed to return to the Nets. Irving will serve the fourth game of his suspension Wednesday when the Nets host the Knicks. Earlier in the day, the Nets promoted Jacque Vaughn to the head coaching position. Vaughn is 2-2 after taking over as acting coach for Steve Nash on Nov. 1.