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ATLANTA — New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, who serves as the president of the National Basketball Players Association, said Kyrie Irving‘s social media post about an antisemitic film and the controversy that ensued can be used as a teaching moment for all players.
McCollum made his first public statements on Irving on Saturday night following the Pelicans’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
“I think the important part was he did apologize,” McCollum said, referencing the apology Irving posted on Instagram hours after he was suspended by the Brooklyn Nets.
“He’s displayed empathy now. I think this is a learning experience in which I don’t think he understood the magnitude of the movie because he didn’t watch it. I don’t think he understood the magnitude of the people that were affected, how they were impacted and how fast hate can spread and how this can snowball.”
In his apology Thursday night, Irving wrote that the movie he had posted about “contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion,” adding that he took full responsibility for the post.
“It’s safe to say that we know that Kyrie and all of us — me specifically, I can speak for myself — specifically condemn antisemitism in any form,” McCollum said. “I am specifically against it. I specifically believe in promoting equality, diversity of inclusion.”
McCollum said he had been in conversations with the league throughout the process since Irving’s post went up. He also said he hadn’t issued a statement about it as NBPA president because he was still in the process of gathering information, much in the same way he didn’t make a statement on owner Robert Sarver and the allegations of racism and misogyny within the Phoenix Suns until after Sarver said he was going to sell the team.
“I had conversations behind the scenes similar to what I’m having now,” McCollum said. “I’m speaking to the league. I’m speaking to people in positions in power. I’m speaking to people with a Jewish background to gain more information, more knowledge personally.
“This is an ongoing situation, so I don’t feel comfortable speaking to certain things yet as I didn’t feel comfortable speaking to certain things regarding Sarver because I was still gathering information and they were still deliberating on what decisions to be made.”
As for why the players generally haven’t been as forthcoming in speaking out against Irving as they were against Sarver, McCollum said he can only speak for himself.
“I can’t speak to players’ reactions and what players are doing in their spare time,” he said.
McCollum also said the Irving post could teach players about the power of social media, where they have thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers like Irving.
“The important thing to learn about this situation is you have a platform. You have to be careful with how you use it,” he said. “You have to vet everything you post. I think this is a situation we can all use as a learning experience for all of us as players. … You have to be careful with what you’re posting.
“You have to know exactly what it is, and you have to research and educate yourself on all religions and all backgrounds and all races so that you are comfortable speaking to that. I think this is an unfortunate situation where a lot of people were affected and a lot of people were harmed by this. It was tough.”
With Irving having apologized and his suspension being handed down, McCollum said everyone can begin the steps of moving forward in the right direction.
“First of all, condemning antisemitism is important,” McCollum said. “I believe in social justice, not just for Black people but for everyone. This is a social justice issue. This is a social justice situation that is continuing to be addressed. I think now we’re heading in the direction of addressing it appropriately.”