"What I post does not mean that I support everything that's being said, or everything that's being done, or I'm campaigning for anything. All I do is post things for my people in my community, and those that it's actually gonna impact. Anybody else that has criticism: it obviously wasn't meant for them."
All the quotes from his Saturday post-game presser are like this. They're tautological and full of ambiguities, allusions to who-knows-what-exactly, barbs at imagined critics—who are conveniently much dumber and less reasonable than the reporters in the room, asking him direct questions he won't answer. He got hung up, at one point, on the definition of "promotion," which is how ESPN's Nick Friedell characterized his tweet, and the time he shared an Alex Jones conspiracy theory on Instagram:
Kyrie: "Will you please stop calling it promotion? What am I promoting?"
Friedell: "You put it out on your platform."
Kyrie: "But I'm promoting it? Do you see me doing—"
Friedell: "By putting it out there, people are going to say you're promoting [it]."
Kyrie: "Just like you put things out there, right?"
Friedell: "Yeah, but I—"
To finish Friedell's thought, because Kyrie wasn't going to let him: Yeah, but I put things out there about, like, the Bulls' rebounding performance.You think most basketball reporters want to cover pseudo-intellectual race hate? This is not the beat they signed up for. They engage with ideas like this only because Kyrie is putting them out there. And to be fair to him, that is the full extent of what he's doing. He provides nothing to engage with, beyond the initial provocation. It's unclear how well he understands any of the material he shares, if he even watched that whole documentary before linking to it. When questioned, he filibusters and generalizes, occasionally starts talking about something else entirely. He chides the media, a remora-like monolith that lives in his imagination. He insists on his own humanity, because that's something you can't argue with. He doesn't ever tell you what he found interesting about whatever nonsense he recently mistook for scholarship. It is kind of incredible, to be as committed to educating yourself as Kyrie claims to be, and to hardly ever utter a fact.
But his message, without distracting specifics, is perhaps more clear. That message is: I am an interesting thinker. He's a total failure, in this respect. While Kyrie's idiocy is being widely discussed on social media and in articles like this one, it's the cheapest interest there is. Somebody bellows a slur in a crowded room, a lot of people are suddenly going to become very interested in them. That counts for nothing.
Kyrie has said that he wants to be understood as an artist, and as little as he ever meaningfully elaborates on that claim, I'm inclined to give it him. He's a beautiful athlete, and no small amount of work has gone into perfecting all those dribble moves and odd-angled shots he uncorks. His play is genuinely mind-expanding, delineating previously unseen possibilities of bodily grace and skill. As a thinker, the work is entirely absent. He's the critical equivalent of some jerk wheezing up and down the park pavement, going 1-for-4 with three turnovers. The reporters he thinks are harassing him are actually affording him more respect than he deserves. They know he's out of his depth and his mind, but they're careful and even somewhat naïve in their questioning, because he's famous and they don't want to get their press credentials yanked. If it feels to Kyrie like they're only pretending to take him seriously, it's because they are. People often condescend to morons, particularly ones who repeat bigoted stuff. If he seeks a higher level of discourse, he should put any effort at all into holding up his end of the conversation.
So that's, finally, Kyrie. He seems beyond saving. More frustrating, because you would expect him to live in the real world at least a little bit, was Kevin Durant, after being asked if Kyrie's lunacy has affected the Nets' squad: "Absolutely not. [It's] only impacted you guys and everybody outside the locker room." As if platforming antisemitic views is the same as a practice scuffle or sideline argument, the kind of thing the press can make too much of. The bunker mentality within NBA organizations runs deep, and you wouldn't expect Durant to call out Kyrie publicly, but the dismissiveness in his response betrays a sickening truth. He truly doesn't care about this, and thinks it's just being used as a wedge, to distract the Nets from their goal of winning basketball games. It's not more important to him than that.
For its part, the NBA came out with a vague statement against hate speech. We'll see if they leave it there, if they have the stomach to pick a fight with the players' union over sanctioning Kyrie. It's hard to feel like any response from the league office would be meaningful. It probably would just amount to corporate signal-sending, as you can't expect an operation worth many billions of dollars to do more than gesture in the direction of positive social change.
This isn't helpful exactly, but it's honest: it is immensely sad and angering when rich and famous people poison the cultural water supply because they are bored, or unwell, or the morphine drip of public attention has slowed, and they are itching for engagement. It's doubly so that there is nothing to be done about it. There are no levers we can pull to make them change. So we process and fume and protest, and begin to hate them. Though they do not feel it.