Liability (noun) – A person or thing whose presence or behavior is likely to cause embarrassment or put one at a disadvantage.
In our daily lives, liabilities are a hinderance. They are something to avoid, leave behind, or separate yourself from altogether. These can be small mundane problems, or large scale catastrophes. They can be anything.
Is it easy to leave these things behind? Not at all. Some might be more simple than others, but some can be quite difficult. Family members, partners, or friends are people that can have trouble separating themselves from things that matter to them.
Basketball fandom is no exception. We, as sports fans in general, bleed the colors of our teams. We follow franchises into the depths of mediocrity. People bury themselves after death in the gear of their favorite team. We think of sports teams as a part of who we are, not just a logo on a helmet or jersey.
As fans, we overlook a lot when it comes to our sports teams. Criminals, abusers, disorderly conduct, murderers – as long as you can play ball, some people can look past those horrible things.
So why can’t we look past Kyrie Irving?
Kyrie Irving isn’t a murderer. He is not a criminal, nor is he an awful person. He has done none of the things we have given passes to as sports fans in the past. While his actions in the media haven’t been taken kindly, he has done far less than some others we have given leeway to.
It would be to the discredit of my writing if I didn’t at least mention the extent of Irving’s wrongdoings. He has been given flack for his anti-vaccine stance during the COVID-19 pandemic. He made headline news after raising questions about the Earth being flat. He posted a movie to his twitter that promoted anti-semitic ideas and messaging.
Let me be clear: I am not giving him a pass for those issues. They have been discussed at length, pontificated upon, and given hours of time on radio and TV. The people against him have every right to be upset. However, that is not what this article is about.
While the sentiment around their messaging and media portrayal couldn’t be more different, the only person I can think to compare this Kyrie Irving situation with is former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was an average player. He wasn’t a Pro Bowl talent, but he wasn’t awful either. He took a stance against police brutality during the 2016 season by kneeling during the National Anthem, and it cost him his career. Why though? His message was clear, and his reasoning seemed sound. While some disagreed, he had every right as an American to express his opinions and views. He protested. He fought. He made his voice heard. Still, his career ended because of it. Not because of his play.
Because he was a liability.
I hate to bring him up in comparison to the things Irving has done, but the comparison is glaring. The on-the-field play didn’t matter at that point. It didn’t matter that he was a decent quarterback with arm talent and speed. He was a distraction. Any team that signed him, even as a backup, wouldn’t get out of a press conference without a question.
For Irving, the issues are the same. His off-the-court actions distract from his play. His stance politically and socially takes away from the fantastic season he is having. His off-the-court antics completely eliminate anything he does in uniform. I desperately want to discuss the new Dallas Mavericks backcourt pairing, and how he’ll fit next to a ball dominant guard like Luka Doncic. I want to discuss the trade and I want to talk basketball.
Sadly, you don’t get to do that with Kyrie Irving. It doesn’t matter that he has a generational-type ball-handling skills. It doesn’t matter if he scores 27 points per game. It doesn’t matter that the Brooklyn Nets were 32-21 and having a great season from both of their stars. When you turn on ESPN in the morning, the conversation wasn’t about the points he scored, but was instead about the tweets he made. The conversation around Irving is never about basketball.
I think it’s important to remember that he is allowed to have these opinions. He is allowed to say what he wants. Some folks will defend what he says, while others will condemn them. I’m here to point out our hypocrisy. Our weird relationship with these types of issues he has presented have mitigated his play.
Kyrie Irving is a liability.
Sports fans forgive. We look past things. We ignore people in prominent positions because they can shoot well, throw touchdowns, or score goals. However, we will never forgive someone who distracts us from our safe space. We will never forgive a liability.
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