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SI:AM | Kyrie Irving Dodges Responsibility for His Antisemitism

Plus, the phony environmentalism of big-time sports.

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Well, so much for leading today’s newsletter with Game 3 of the World Series.

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In today’s SI:AM:

🏀 Kyrie Irving’s dangerous comments

🌳 Greenwashing in sports

🐯 Auburn’s new AD

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Will Kyrie speak with the media tonight?

Sooner or later, Kyrie Irving is going to have to take responsibility for spreading antisemitic propaganda. Last night was not that time.

After a combative press conference Saturday night in which he refused to entertain the idea that he was wrong to promote a blatantly antisemitic film, Irving faced no consequences from the Nets or the NBA. He was in the starting lineup for last night’s game against the Pacers and didn’t even have to face additional scrutiny after the game. He was not made available to talk to the media. (A group of fans did, however, sit courtside wearing shirts that read “fight antisemitism.”)

During that Saturday press conference, Irving repeatedly took issue with the suggestion that he was promoting antisemitism. But what else can you call sharing a link with your 4.6 million Twitter followers to a film that claims, among other things, that Jews lied about the Holocaust, that Jews are created anti-Black racism and that Jews created slavery? Irving spread those ideas at a time when antisemitism is on the rise in the United States. “Kanye is right about the Jews,” read a message projected on the outside of TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville after Saturday’s Florida-Georgia game, referring to repeated antisemitic comments made in recent weeks by Ye.

“Whether Irving intends to or not, he is giving aid and comfort to the worst among us—and, disturbingly, doesn’t seem to grasp that,” Howard Beck writes.

The Nets play again tonight (at home against the Bulls) and the team has not said whether Irving will address the media after the game. But he can’t keep hiding from scrutiny. He should make himself available to field questions after the game and apologize for his words and actions. He needs to reckon with the fact that the material he helped spread is hateful and move on, rather than dig in his heels like he did on Saturday. He needs to do that, most importantly, to limit the damage he’s already done, but also to put the issue behind him so the Nets can proceed without another distraction. As Beck writes, this is already a team (with a 2–5 record after last night’s win) that’s teetering on the edge of disaster:

Kevin Durant, remember, demanded a trade over the summer. Irving, remember, failed to get the extension he sought and is on a one-year deal. Steve Nash, in his second season as a head coach, continues to look overmatched in the role. Ben Simmons, in his first games after missing a full season, looks tentative and overwhelmed. The slightest bump in the road could send the Nets careening into a ditch.

Whether it be for his flat-Earth comments or his anti-vaccine stance, Irving has always been reluctant to apologize for misguided words. Now would be another good time to change that.

The best of Sports Illustrated


Today’s Daily Cover, by Dan Falkenheim and Alex Prewitt, is part of our ongoing series about climate change. They explore how sports have become rife with meaningless environmentalism.

Emma Baccellieri explains how the postponement of Game 3 will impact the Phillies’ and Astros’ pitching decisions. … Ross Dellenger breaks down Auburn’s decision to fire Bryan Harsin and hire John Cohen as its new athletic director. … The Bucks are No. 1 in Kyle Wood’s NBA power rankings. … Here are Richard Johnson’s latest college football bowl projections.

Around the sports world

Justin Verlander said he was just having fun when he gave some Phillies fans the finger. … The Browns blew out the Bengals on Monday Night Football. … Wales is considering changing the name of its national soccer teams to “Cymru” after the World Cup. … Paul Pogba will miss the World Cup after injury setbacks. … The XFL announced the eight cities that will host teams in its 2023 season. … A Michigan player who was attacked in the tunnel by Michigan State players plans to press charges.

The top five...

… things I saw last night:

5. Amari Cooper’s big night on MNF. (Five catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.)

4. The Browns fan who dressed up as a sad clown. (I’m guessing he thought the game would go differently.)

3. Giannis’s nasty Eurostep for a one-handed jam.

2. Sabres forward Tage Thompson’s hat trick.

1. Paul George’s fadeaway game-winner against the Rockets.


On this day in 2003, Larry Fitzgerald broke an NCAA record by catching a touchdown pass in his 14th consecutive game. Who held the record before him?

  • Randy Moss
  • Tim Brown
  • Desmond Howard
  • Charles Rogers

Yesterday’s SIQ: On Oct. 31, 1950, who became the first Black player to appear in an NBA game?

  • Earl Lloyd
  • Chuck Cooper
  • Nat Clifton
  • Jim Tucker

Answer: Earl Lloyd. He made his debut for the Washington Capitols on the first day of the NBA’s fifth season.

While Lloyd was the first Black player to appear in an NBA game, Chuck Cooper became the first Black player drafted by an NBA team in April 1950, and Nat Clifton was the first Black player to sign an NBA contract when the Knicks signed him in May of that year. (Tucker, the other name listed above, became one of the first two Black players to win an NBA championship, along with Lloyd, when their Syracuse Nationals won the ’55 title.)

Lloyd was always modest about his place in history, declining to put himself in the company of Jackie Robinson.

“I don’t think my situation was anything like Jackie Robinson’s—a guy who played in a very hostile environment, where even some of his own teammates didn’t want him around,” Lloyd once said, according to “In basketball, folks were used to seeing integrated teams at the college level. There was a different mentality. But of course, the team did stay and eat in some places where I wasn’t welcome.”

Lloyd, who died in 2016, went on to become the coach of the Pistons. Since Bill Russell was a player-coach for the Celtics, that makes Lloyd the first African American hired by an NBA team strictly to coach.

Lloyd, Cooper and Clifton aren’t remembered today the way Jackie Robinson and Willie O’Ree (the NHL’s first Black player) are. In a 2002 book that was once reviewed in SI, Lloyd recalled how he was disappointed when he happened to walk past the Pacers at an airport in the ’80s and not one player recognized him.

From the Vault: Nov. 1, 1982

Moses Malone on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1982

This cover is a classic. So classic, in fact, that when the Sixers traded for Jimmy Butler in 2018, they recreated it with Butler in place of Moses Malone.

Philadelphia’s trade for Malone worked out better than the Butler deal. Fresh off winning his second MVP with the Rockets, the Sixers acquired Malone in exchange for Caldwell Jones (a defensive-minded center five years older than Malone) and a first-round pick originally belonging to the Cavaliers.

You might look at the trade as a sort of proto-tanking move for the Rockets. The moribund Cavs had only won 15 games during the previous season so it wasn’t farfetched that, during those pre-lottery days, the Cleveland pick might be No. 1. At the same time, the trade (and starter Robert Reid’s unexpected retirement due to religious reasons) made the Rockets such a terrible team that they were the ones who ended up finishing with the league’s worst record and getting the top draft pick. They took Ralph Sampson No. 1 and Rodney McCray with Cleveland’s pick at No. 3.

The Sixers, meanwhile, hoped that Malone would be the missing piece to a championship team. Over the previous six seasons, led by Julius Erving, Philadelphia had the best cumulative record in the NBA and had reached the Finals three times. All three times, though, the Sixers fell short.

“In last spring’s series against Boston, we were the downtrodden team, David against Goliath,” Sixers GM Pat Williams told SI’s Anthony Cotton, referring to Philly’s seven-game victory over the Celtics in the conference finals. “The whole nation was sympathetic to us. Now we’re back to being Goliath.”

Williams was right. With Malone, who won a second straight MVP in 1983, the Sixers went 65–17 (the best record in the NBA) and cruised through the playoffs, losing just one game before sweeping the Lakers in the Finals.

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