Though he had an exchange with the fan during the game, Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving said he did not request that a Utah Jazz fan remove his Jewish sign during their contest earlier this week in Salt Lake City, according to The Athletic.
Avremi Zippel is a rabbi and a Jazz season ticket holder. He even lit a menorah during halftime of a Jazz game in December during a ceremony. So on Monday, Zippel was sitting courtside with his father, brother and brother-in-law at the Delta Center with signs that read, “I’m a Jew and I’m proud.”
Zippel told The Athletic this week that he and his family walked to their courtside seats with the signs without any issue before the game, and even took a photo with security looking on. Being there during a game that Irving was playing in was important for him to be “fully present as a visible Jew,” he said.
But after a brief exchange with Irving during the first quarter, Zippel was asked to either stop holding up the signs or switch seats. Multiple sources told The Athletic that Jazz security asked Zippel to stop displaying the signs after Mavericks security raised the issue.
Yet Irving insisted he wasn’t involved.
“I wish him and his family well,” Irving said Wednesday night after the Mavericks beat the Portland Trail Blazers. “No disrespect going his way. That’s not my MO.”
The interaction between Irving and Zippel was relatively friendly. During the first quarter, Irving saw the sign while inbounding the ball and said, “Nice, I’m Jewish too.”
“And I said, ‘Cool. Happy New Year, buddy,’” Zippel said, via The Athletic. “He inbounded the ball, and as he dribbled up the court, he called over his shoulder, ‘Don’t gotta bring a sign like that to a game.’”
The signs were made largely due to Irving’s suspension in 2022 when he was with the Brooklyn Nets, which came after on social media and then repeatedly refused to apologize for it. Irving eventually apologized and returned after eight games following the backlash, though . It was one of several incidents that Irving dealt with during his time with the Nets.
The Jazz simply said that the “issue was the disruptive interaction caused by the usage of the signs,” not the message on the sign itself.
“Bottom line: there was one person, in a building of 18,000+, that was triggered by the sign that says ‘I’m a Jew and I’m proud,’” Zippel wrote after the game, via the Salt Lake Tribune. “Why that bothers him so, to the point that it sparks an interaction, should be the real question anyone is asking.”
Irving has averaged 22.8 points and 5.1 assists per game this season, his first full one with the Mavericks. Irving had missed 12 games due to a foot injury before returning on Monday night in Utah. The Mavericks, who went 6-6 without Irving, hold a 20-15 record headed into Friday’s game against the Trail Blazers in Dallas.