Kyrie Irving shouldn’t be normalized by Cleveland fans

What Irving has done off the court since leaving Cleveland should make the Cavaliers, and their fans, want to further distance themselves.
irving kyrie donovan mitchell cavs nets
CLEVELAND, OH – DECEMBER 26: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game on December 26, 2022 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cleveland sports fans are interesting, albeit fickle, individuals. If you’ve done anything of significance or have sold fans on a false bill of goods (AKA hope), all while wearing orange and brown, wine and gold or navy and red, you’re bulletproof to some. Plenty of you have already seen recently it with Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns this season, with the organization and the majority of their fanbase thumbing their noses at sexual assault victims. Unfortunately for those who are victims of sexual assault or disgusted by him calling Cleveland home, Watson is going to be here for quite a while. The Browns signed him to a mammoth five-year extension worth nearly a quarter of a billion dollars soon after acquiring them and showed how low an organization is willing to go in order to win.

On the hardwood, meanwhile, there’s also controversy, albeit for different reasons. Mind you, this has nothing to do with any player, coach or person currently affiliated with or employed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Instead, it has to do with Kyrie Irving, who played for the Cavaliers for six seasons and hit one of the most important shots in franchise history that helped the organization, and the city, win a title. On Monday night, the Cavaliers hosted Irving and the Brooklyn Nets at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Cleveland lost 125-117, with Irving serving as one of Brooklyn’s leading scorers with 32 points.

For Irving, it was a homecoming of sorts and seemed happy to be back in Cleveland on the night of Christmas. The subsection of Cleveland sports fans mentioned at the top of this story lapped it up, reading to embrace and celebrate their champion once more. Mad Men’s protagonist Don Draper once said nostalgia is delicate but potent – it’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. Despite Irving and the Cavaliers organization ending things on less-than-stellar terms several seasons ago, the fans could turn over a new page and celebrate arguably one of the most skilled players in the team’s history.

Unfortunately, things cannot be so black and white when it comes to situations like this. But, when it comes to Irving and Cleveland fandom, there’s also a lot less gray space as well. That’s because Irving has been in the news for things that are frankly unforgivable. Thanks to Irving we’re seeing a lot more antisemitism, not like there wasn’t enough of it already, around us lately. It started when started when he posted a since-deleted tweet, along with a matching Instagram story, promoting the 2018 documentary “Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America”.

That tweet and Instagram story kicked up an uproar that did not culminate in Irving’s release but rather a light suspension from the Nets without pay. It took several days for the Nets to even consider suspending Irving and it probably wouldn’t have happened without Irving continuously refusing to apologize for his actions and overwhelming public pressure. If Irving weren’t one of the league’s best at his position and a key piece to Brooklyn playing for a championship, a suspension and possible release would’ve come much more swiftly. But, again, nearly any team from any sport is willing to risk it all if it results in winning, the Nets included.

irving okoro cavs nets
CLEVELAND, OH – DECEMBER 26: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks to pass the ball during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 26, 2022 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

When Irving finally issued an apology, it came after he was suspended by his team without pay. It reeked of a spoiled, petulant brat doing the bare minimum to shorten the length of his punishment. Personally, no one knows if Irving was even genuine in his apology after it took this long for him to even be somewhat apologetic. Regardless, the damage Irving caused leading up to that point is immeasurable since the documentary in question quotes infamous antisemites like Adolph Hitler and Henry Ford to drive home the point that the Holocaust never truly happened and 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.

Mind you, that theory has been extensively debunked and is indisputably hateful, no matter what form it comes in. Irving seemingly downplayed the significance of sharing the documentary to his 22.7 million combined Twitter and Instagram followers, claiming to be a “beacon of truth”. Instead of a beacon, Irving was a spark that lit a powderkeg and spread hateful information to anyone and everyone that follows him. Ultimately, Irving doesn’t care that this movie is antisemitic, racist trash. He only cares that you’re mad about it and can continue to play coy all while maintaining he’s a passive actor, looking to spread “his truth”.

Well, Irving’s “truth” is actually giving him an active role as a disseminator of horribly made, hate-filled propaganda. Sure, he might’ve issued the apology and his biggest fans are quick to point out his off-court contributions. But, at the end of the day, while the off-court charity work is great, it doesn’t change who Irving at his core likely is. Mind you, this isn’t the first time Irving has shared hateful rhetoric like this. He first started espousing antisemitic doctrine in March 2021. So, while the off-court work is positive, it doesn’t change the fact that Irving is more than ignorant about the damage he’s caused by posting freely on social media and remaining insincere over the consequences of his actions.

So, when videos surfaced of Irving spending time after beating the Cavaliers on Monday signing autographs for younger fans, it feels more like what was discussed above. Doubly so when Kevin Love, the last standing member of the 2016 championship squad, was befuddled why some fans at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse booed Irving during pre-game intros and is adamant the team should retire the guard’s jersey, the gray spot on the Cleveland fandom spectrum comes back into play.

Again, it’s not so black and white in terms of who Irving is as a basketball player and a person. But, when he was given multiple chances to apologize and it took him losing everything financially to say something, it becomes a bit more clear. That’s why fans should shy away from normalizing Irving or anyone like him because, like Watson, what he’s done off the court (or field in Watson’s case) should outweigh what he brings when playing sports for people’s entertainment. He always has been and always will be willfully ignorant on the outside in order to seem like the smartest person in the room.

Besides, Irving wasn’t the only reason the Cavaliers were able to win a championship in 2016 since it was a team effort at the end of the day. Considering what Irving has used his platform to amplify since then, it should make it even easier to further distance yourself from someone like him. Sadly, many don’t feel that way and consider moments like what happened on Monday or what Love said in a postgame scrum enough to build a bridge and mend fences with a former franchise great. Some fans, especially quite a few Cleveland fans, are just wired to ignore the reality of the situation. Irving has done no favors to Jews nor to Black people when he spreads unvarnished hate speech, and when that hate speech grows stronger thanks to his endorsement, it should become a fairly easy decision.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at He can also be found three to five times a week on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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