One day after suffering a groin injury against the Los Angeles Clippers, Lakers star LeBron James took a break from rehabilitation to defend former teammate and current Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving was suspended at least five games by his team for his “failure to disavow antisemitism” after sharing a link to an antisemitic film on social media. His business relationship with Nike was also suspended.
In addition to the suspension, Irving has been asked to complete a “series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct,” the team said.
NBA reporter Shams Charania detailed those requirements, which include education and sensitivity training, as well as meeting with members of the Jewish community.
James, however, felt the team was asking too much of Irving, whom he won a championship with as members of the 2015-26 Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I told you guys that I don’t believe in sharing hurtful information. And I’ll continue to be that way but Kyrie apologized and he should be able to play,” James tweeted Thursday morning.
While James seemed to admit that Irving had made mistakes, he said he believes those missteps should not keep Irving off the court.
“Help him learn- but he should be playing. What he’s asked to do to get back on the floor I think is excessive IMO,” James wrote.
Some on social media, such as basketball journalist Tommy Beer, noted that another recent case of racism in the NBA was condemned much more harshly by King James.
Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns, was accused of racism and misogyny in an ESPN report late last year.
Despite making an apology, Sarver, who allegedly used the N-word and spoke about his sex life while at work, was suspended for a season and fined $10 million, which James thought was not enough.
“This ain’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team,” Beer quoted James as saying.
In his tweet, Beer noted that Sarver apologized, while Irving has been accused of refusing to apologize and of dodging responsibility.
In his tweets, James said that Irving has apologized and that he is “not the person that’s being portrayed of him.”
James has also found himself embroiled in accusations of antisemitism. In a video posted to social media in 2018, he sang along to a 21 Savage song with the lyrics, “We been gettin’ that Jewish money, everything is kosher.”
James later apologized and said he thought the lyric was “a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t, through the lens of a lot of people.”
“My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody,” he added.
The four-time NBA champion was not punished by the league.
While many commenters on James’ tweets criticized the basketball star, he did not engage in a back-and-forth online.
“Anyways back to my rehab session,” he said at the end of his comments.