Celebrity self-righteousness conceals moral hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is prevalent in our world today. Many of us have become completely and utterly numb to it. Throughout the news we watch and the headlines we read, there are lies, deceit, fabrications, and people being taken advantage of. I have seen no more explicit example of this hypocrisy than Kyrie Irving’s recent antisemitic incident in the media.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving made headlines this fall with his assertion that he is “not going to stand down on anything [I] believe in” after the media condemned him for tweeting a link to a documentary titled, “Hebrews to Negroes, Wake up Black America.” Many have considered this post to be antisemitic and in terrible taste. The Nets suspended Irving days later for failing to disavow antisemitism, citing a media session in which he was asked “yes or no” whether he held antisemitic beliefs. Irving strongly asserted that he was not and never was antisemitic.
Irving’s statements are representative of a broad societal issue faced within the U.S. today. Jewish people have, for centuries, been discriminated against and persecuted predicated on vulgar ethnic stereotypes which hold no merits. Irving is unquestionably wrong for his statements, which appear to encourage the intolerance of a commonly prejudiced group.
Nets owner Joe Tsai issued a statement on Twitter expressing his dissatisfaction is Irving stating, “[I’m] disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation.”
Irving has since apologized for his antisemitic episode. This response showed great maturity from Irving, who seems not to be a hateful individual from all accounts. Irving, in his various apologies, comes across as misunderstood rather than abhorrent. After Irving’s apology, Tsai took to Twitter, stating, “[Irving] still has work to do [before returning to play].”
The implications of Tsai’s statements must not go unrecognized. The paramount issue at hand is not Irving’s momentary disillusion. Instead, the real problem is the inability of Tsai to acknowledge the sheer irony of his condemning statements. Tsai remains an unrepentant supporter of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and no one seems to care.
As a known and active supporter of the CCP, Tsai has repeatedly jumped through hoops to ignore and deflect the atrocities committed by the CCP on its people. According to a 2020 Congressional report, Tsai’s company, Alibaba, has been used to build an intrusive, omnipresent surveillance state that uses emerging technologies to track individuals with greater efficiency. These technologies have been used widely in the western region of Xinjiang, where the CCP has forced more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities into barbed-wire “re-education” camps. These processes have been described as cultural genocide by the United States, several other countries, and human rights organizations.
Simply put, a billionaire who proclaims zero-tolerance for discrimination happily profits from a region that holds Uyghurs in barbed-wire camps, where they are raped and tortured, per the U.S. Department of State. Yet, Tsai preaches to Kyrie it’s “wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity, or religion.”
Tsai represents the controversial nature of the NBA-China relationship, which acquires massive revenue for both parties but requires the NBA to do business with a 1984-esque authoritarian government and ignore problems beyond the kind of social justice issues it is fighting at home.
In the United States, Tsai speaks out as an advocate to the underrepresented minorities. He continuously preaches love and acceptance to all. In China, Tsai utilizes Alibaba to partner with companies considered to be leading a “campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-tech surveillance through state-of-the-art racial profiling,” according to the U.S. government.
Even after Irving fulfilled the objectives placed upon him by Tsai, he was still met with pushback from the Nets’ owner. This type of response from a man of Tsai’s robust stature is highly alarming. Moreover, in response to Tsai’s suspension of Irving, many of Irving’s sponsors promptly left his side. The most prominent of the sponsors to dump Irving is Nike.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” said Nike in a statement to NPR. “To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately.”
Nike is absolutely detestable in their attempt to stand above hate and discrimination. When has Nike ever shown any consideration for ethical issues? Nike, as a corporation, has no right to act as though they are above Kyrie Irving when much of its reported $40 billion annual revenue stream can be attributed to sweatshops and child labor.
As fans, we are responsible for ensuring that owners such as the Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Tsai cannot double-dip and utilize hateful practices only where it benefits them. Likewise, as consumers, we must demand that companies manufacturing products in China conduct due diligence and social audits to ensure they are not complicit in forced labor. It is imperative, more so now than any other time, to protect those being used as social scapegoats, and target the much greater evils which loom over us.
Kyrie Irving was unequivocally wrong to promote an antisemitic documentary—this is not up for debate. However, it is essential to recognize the lengths he has gone to prove himself sorry. Rather than tackling the social issue head-on, like Irving, Joe Tsai has gone to absurd lengths to avoid any discussion of his relationship with the CCP. The fact that the majority of mass-media is ignoring Tsai’s wrongdoings is alarming, as it is setting a terrible precedent that those with power and money can get away with whatever they please.