How many things do you remember from when you were in sixth grade?
If, like me, you don’t have the famous photographic memory of a certain LeBron James, the answer to this question is probably “very little”. But one of the few precious, crystal-clear memories I have of those days still strikes me from time to time – and does so more and more often this week: it is my paternal great-uncle Abe, who tells me how the soldiers Nazis forced him and my grandfather to leave the body of their brother, the last member of their immediate family who did not survive the Holocaust, in the pits they had been forced to dig for excrement then that they were leaving the concentration camps they had been held in – and oncoming Russian forces – as World War II drew to a close.
It’s not the kind of thing an 11-year-old easily forgets.
As Kyrie Irving did in his own misguided and dangerous, but seemingly serious way, Uncle Abe told me this story when I was trying to find out more about my roots for an oral history report at school, a project that required us to interview an older parent. in our family to find out where we came from and what life was like for previous generations. It was the first interview I’ve ever conducted, and while the easy narrative line here would be to say that I always knew I was going to be a journalist eventually, that’s not true either. I had many other career goals before heading down this current path. But knowing that history always reminded me of how strong my family was and gave me the strength to persevere when I felt hopeless, because I know my ancestors have been through worse.
It also hurts when people claim these stories never happened.
All of this has made this last week painful, overwhelming and heartbreaking all at once. In all honesty, I’ve been in depressed funk, exhausted from arguments and Kyrie Irving covers sharing a virulent antisemite, Holocaust denial documentary, reluctant to even commit publicly just because it’s so raw and painful. And let’s face it, trying to change anyone’s mind on the internet is looking more and more like a wild ride, especially in the hellish new landscape that is Twitter under new ownership.
But after being inspired by my friend Mirjam Swanson beautifully inserting her own personal family history into her OC Register column, and simultaneously angered and bolstered by the pain in my guy Aaron Larsuel’s voice as he begged for even a single member of the NBA community to call this hateful bullshit what is it on this week’s episode of “The Hook,” I felt more and more ready to write…something. I didn’t know what.
And then LeBron spoke out, becoming (I believe) the first NBA player to do so officially and in his own words:
Full transcript of LeBron James’ responses tonight condemning Kyrie Irving’s social media posts and subsequent statements as ‘harmful’: pic.twitter.com/O1mC4o5d6E
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 5, 2022
Some highlights, from OCR’s Kyle Goon:
“I believe what Kyrie did hurt a lot of people,” James said after the Lakers’ 130-116 loss to the Utah Jazz. “And he has since, during the last – I think it was today, or yesterday – he apologized. But he hurt and I think that’s unfortunate. … If you promote, solicit or say harmful things to a community that harms people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t endorse it.
“Me personally, I don’t tolerate any hatred of any kind to any race,” James said. “To Jewish communities, to black communities, to Asian communities. You know where I stand. And that’s part of the reason why I didn’t air the episode ‘The Shop’, why we pulled it from the archives. Because it was a hateful conversation going on there. And I don’t represent that. There is no place in this world for that.
“I love the kid – he’s not even a kid anymore. He is 30 years old,” James said. “I don’t know the direction, the steps he is taking, but he apologized for what he said and I hope he understands what he said was harmful to a lot of people. .”
Again, it shouldn’t have been so hard or taken so long, but for me, and probably many others, reading it was surprisingly good. To hear someone from this league and this sport that I love so much support me and the many others who have been hurt by all the silence, to have the pain of anti-Semitism becoming a topic of sports debate bilateral and the harm caused by whataboutism- the arguments fueled on social media have been recognized, to say what I would have thought before this week would have been so easy: anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are bad, whatever whatever the intent, and hopefully Kyrie can learn from her missteps and grow from that.
But given that the NBA, NBPA and Nets initially refused to even use Irving’s name while vaguely denouncing hate in their original toothless statements days before his eventual suspension, and the fact that James is the first player I’ve seen admit he’s aware of all this and state the obvious — it’s wrong! – it obviously wasn’t as easy to do in the current league climate as one might think from the outside. For that reason, I’m grateful that LeBron has decided to speak up and call him what he is, and I know I’m not the only one.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed at itunes, Spotify, embroiderer Where Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.