New Orleans Pelicans guard and NBA Players Association President CJ McCollum condemned antisemitism while discussing the recent situation involving Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
Per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez, McCollum made the remarks following New Orleans’ game against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night.
“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.”
Irving, a players association vice president, posted a link on social media to an antisemitic film on Oct. 27. He then waited six days — including multiple combative interactions with press — before apologizing in an Instagram statement. Irving’s apology came Thursday night, hours after the Brooklyn Nets suspended him for a minimum of five games.
“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.”
McCollum called the situation “unfortunate,” but also a teaching moment for other NBA players in regards to social media.
“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.”
McCollum’s statements are notable because most NBA players have remained silent regarding the situation. Also, the NBAPA was largely criticized for its initial statement released about the situation, which condemned antisemitism, but failed to mention Irving by name.
McCollum said he waited until now to speak because he wanted to gather more information, similar to how he waited to discuss the investigation into Robert Sarver’s ownership of the Phoenix Suns.
“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.”