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Kyrie Irving is far from Muhammad Ali

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The Brooklyn Nets have announced that star shooter Kyrie Irving will not join the team this season, which begins Oct. 18, until he is able to be “a full participant.” This means there is no practice, no match and of course he misses at least half of his game controls which is millions of dollars in losses.

The championship-winning goalkeeper took to Instagram last night to say he is neither a pro nor an anti-vaccine, but chooses what is best for him. “I’m not going to be used as a person in this program,” he told IG Live. “I’m just saying it shouldn’t be divided between all of us, it should be understood between us… it’s not about the Nets, not about my teammates, the organization… it’s not about politics, it’s not just anything. “

Before he was on Live, sports experts were quick to say Irving shouldn’t be considered a martyr, though he didn’t seem he has never positioned itself as one. Regardless, on Thursday morning former NBA star Stephon Marbury compared his fight against state vaccination warrants to the political struggles of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, with many ridiculing the analogy while others agreed.

Okay, let’s put that aside: Irving, despite what Stephon Marbury would have us believe, is not Ali. But the distinction between them is very significant in the way the popular – often racist – discourse around Irving has been constructed. The only common point between the two sports figures is resistance to control. For Ali, it was conscription control, which would send him to Vietnam to kill the “enemies” of the expanding American Empire which was part of a colonial project still underway in Asia. For Irving, it’s resistance to getting vaccinated in the name of public health and safety. They both protest against the power of the state to dictate a person’s ability to determine their own destiny.

The difference between Irving and Ali is what they actually hold for. Ali was part of a larger organization – first the Nation of Islam, and later Sufism – which had a political ideology, which was in direct conflict with America’s primary goals. He also featured prominently in pro-vaccine PSAs in 1978, where his vaccination was televised to a live audience. In Irving’s case, his skepticism is not tied to any particular ideology – in fact, it is not a principle at all – and therefore, despite his best efforts not to be included in a particular “agenda” Whether it’s anti-vaccine or conspiracy theorists, its words are taken, shaped and refined by those seeking to make a political statement.

Ali’s words, too, were taken away from him and misinterpreted, but one could always go to the source to find out what he really believed. He wasn’t at all shy about it, and the stakes of his political outspokenness were much higher than Irving’s. Ali was not only stripped of his titles and banned from boxing, but was sentenced to five years in prison for disobedience before the conviction was overturned on appeal. Irving stands to lose millions of dollars from the hoop, but hasn’t lost his ring, hasn’t lost a single endorsement, and hasn’t really been censored for sharing his opinions on the matter. Although they were both subjected to racist readings of their beliefs, at the very least we knew what Ali’s beliefs were, where they came from, and with whom he was struggling. Irving showed very little real political ideology or organizing principle.

The only chance we had to peek behind Irving’s curtain was at the start of the pandemic. The NBA was deciding whether a bubble season at ESPN Wide World of Sports facilities in Florida, in order to recoup losses from the pandemic break and fulfill their contractual obligations to television networks, would work for players. At the time, Irving, alongside other players like Avery Bradley, advocated that the hoops boycott the idea of ​​the bubble given the timing; this was, of course, in the midst of the global protests against policing following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Irving wanted the league to focus on raising awareness of injustices in the very places where many of its players grew up. At the time, merchants like Adrian Wojnarowski called Irving a “disruptor,” saying Irving “relished the clash” between league superstars who wanted to restart the season and the wave of players who might actually believe there are aspects to a person’s life at the -beyond the respect of contracts for the league and its owners. As players discussed whether to boycott the bubble, they ran into this very discursive issue that differentiates Irving from Ali.

In the now infamous Zoom call, where NBA and WNBA players came together to discuss their next moves, superstars like then NBA Players Association president Chris Paul and the Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony questioned the purpose of the strike. Matt Sullivan, writing for ESPN and later in his book, Can’t Knock the Hustle: Inside The Season Of Protest, Pandemic, And Progress With The Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars Of Tomorrow, reported that as union president Paul set the table for discussion, warning not to be “too specific about the new bargaining plans on the call” lest this be leaked to the press . But movements like that need an organizing principle, a particular and unique ideology that brings them together. So when Anthony questioned the larger body, asking, “What do we stand for?” Irving’s repetition of the word “unity” has largely fallen on deaf ears.

“Now that he’s passed, it’s still unclear whether Irving has any particular ideology or tenet that goes beyond skepticism.“

What Actually unifies the hoops? Their love of gambling and the social and financial capital that goes with it. Apart from that, there is no political conviction or justification to organize against the continuation of the game. This is why, when Irving was right to push for a boycott, the wildcat strike started by the Milwaukee Bucks which quickly spread to many players and teams was easily crushed after a call between Barack Obama and LeBron James cooled tensions. Barry and James played the very unit Irving was speaking to, but used their love of the game and the platform the players have with him to suppress the true organization that could have manifested from that point on.

Now that he’s passed, it’s still unclear whether Irving has any particular ideology or tenet that goes beyond skepticism. Although his previous stint as a flat earthling and, as Rolling stone reported, “to like Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who complaints that the “secret societies” establish [COVID] vaccines in a plot to connect black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan” “, as well as the beliefs that the assassination of John F. Kennedy was linked to the US Federal Reserve and that the CIA attempted to kill reggae legend Bob Marley, drop him in the ‘conspiracy theorist’ bucket, he is Clearly Irving doesn’t care.

As the bubble games progressed, Irving reconnected with his native roots in Standing Rock (his mother was half Sioux), not only by becoming a member of the Sioux tribe, but by battling the Dakota Access Pipeline, making six-figure donations to tribal youth programs, providing two food trucks and, yes, 3,000 N95 masks to those who live on the reserve. In 2020 it engaged $ 1.5 million to WNBA players who chose not to participate in their bubble season, either because of the virus or because they wanted to participate in social justice protests. And last summer, Irving partnered with Michigan-based Project Paani to build a solar-powered water plant in Rohal, Pakistan, one of the hottest and poorest areas in the country, in order to provide drinking water to thousands of villagers.

We don’t often have a sense of what Irving believes, politically, about the world, but through actions we can determine who he prioritizes. It may seem contradictory then that he becomes the face of vaccine skepticism in the league. Perhaps we could attribute this to reporters like Woj and bloggers like Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, who are more interested in clicks than care. We could also point the finger at a media world that has no problem making black people the mascots of this skepticism – by abusing black’s violent relationship with medical care and our relative lack of access to proper health insurance. as a means of categorizing blacks. like back. That’s not to say that regardless of the NBA’s strict COVID protocols, Irving wouldn’t put anyone at risk if he could play for the Nets this season, flying from town to town, but it belies the idea that he is. completely indifferent to the fate of his fellows.

The problem is, we just don’t know enough about Irving’s political leanings. We don’t know who he’s organizing with or if he’s organizing at all. It seems he’s just open to questioning things – no matter how much the truth may be based on discernible facts – and wants to take his time with the vaccine. But capitalism and team chemistry wait for no one. The work must be done, the bonds must be strengthened. It seems Irving is still looking for a principle that works for him, and he’s doing it without the united NBA front he wanted a few years ago. But the time for decision-making around the vaccine, according to the NBA and New York State, is near. Over 44 million cases and 700,000 people have died from this virus, it is nothing to play with. Unfortunately, the world did not work in Irving’s time.



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