Through the trials and tribulations of going after a championship ring, there is bound to be tension in the clubhouse far beyond because of what happens on the field.
Kyrie Irving tweeted a link to a film with antisemitic disinformation late last week, but this was hardly his first controversy. The Brooklyn Nets guard missed court time in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 capitol riots, and before a New York City exception for performers, he only played for the team on a part-time basis (only on the road) due to being unvaccinated for COVID-19.
It is safe to assume that Irving has ruffled some wrong feathers in the Nets locker room, but Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Barry Larkin have a cure to ease any tension: Winning.
Rivera played a vital role in winning five championships with the New York Yankees - he is the greatest closer of all time. He said he only saw "two hot discussions" in his entire 19-year career, but "many, many others" where an issue was brushed off quickly because "we're gonna fight for the same mission."
"And that’s great for me, because the person showed me the passion for the game and to win. We might not agree on a lot of things, but we respect each other when we were on that field. We won’t show it on the field, but if we had to take actions in the clubhouse, we did that," Rivera told Fox News Digital.
"But at the same time, you touch on (religion), first of all, all the guys, they all have their own opinion and basically their own religion. I always respect that. I was about - when they ask me, I open my mouth. I wasn’t shoving it through somebody’s throat. I waited for my opportunity and I addressed myself."
Rivera and Larkin are both stepping into a whole new world following their baseball careers - they have recently signed on as part owners of Baseball United, the first professional baseball league in South Asia. The way of living in India, where there are over 50 million "avid fans" of baseball according to league CEO Kash Shaikh, differs entirely from Larkin's upbringing in the states and Rivera's growing up the son of a fisherman in Panama.
Rivera is a devout Christian, which is not a secret. When Aaron Boone hit a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, Rivera ran to cry on the mound as a way of saying thank you to his higher power for his three scoreless innings of relief.
"They knew that I was vocal about my religion and relationship with Christ, and they never tell me anything against or complained about me harassing them, about following Christ, all of that stuff, no," Rivera said. "In the other hand, they were accepting. They accepted it because they knew me. They saw who I was. I wasn’t a guy that was shady telling some people something else."
Larkin was the captain of the Cincinnati Reds. That title was given to Derek Jeter in New York, but Rivera obviously still had quite the presence in that locker room. It was vital for them to be their true selves no matter what.
"When you’re a leader, as Mo was and as I was, in the clubhouse and people are watching you, and it really sets the tone for how things are when you as a leader fail and how you respond to that… It’s about responsibility. It’s about being consistent and being responsible and appreciating and respecting other people’s opinions," Larkin said.
Echoing Rivera's sentiments, Larkin said that as long as the common goal in between the white lines was the same for everyone, all was good.
"Obviously everyone has an opinion, and you have to respect that everyone has an opinion… In the clubhouse, it’s about winning baseball games," Larkin said in a recent interview with Fox News Digital. "You can have your opinion – people are going to of varying opinions. There were more fights on the teams that I won with… than on the teams that I did not win with. And it’s because guys are passionate about whatever and convicted in whatever they believe in."
The 12-time All-Star added that "the issue is using social media to make your opinion known or to point things out."
"The fact that people are using social media to make certain statements, I think people have to be just more responsible with that, but everyone has their opinion, and we have to respect that everyone has their opinion," Larkin said. "And in the clubhouse, there’s going to be some contention, there’s going to be some tension. And to be quite honest, for me, I feel like the winning teams that I played on when there was tension was healthy. I don’t think the clubhouse should be just a nice, easy, kind of get away from everything. I think there should be some tension in there, because guys care."
The Nets suspended Irving on Thursday night.
"Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate. We believed that taking the path of education in this challenging situation would be the right one and thought that we had made progress with our joint commitment to eradicating hate and intolerance," the team said in a statement.
"We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity - but failed - to clarify.
"Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team. Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets. We have decided that Kyrie will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct and the suspension period served is no less than five games."
Irving issued an apology late Thursday night on his Instagram.
"While doing research on YHWH, I posted a Documentary that contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion, and I take full accountability and responsibly for my actions," Irving wrote." I am grateful to have a big platform to share knowledge and I want to move forward by having an open dialogue to learn more and grow from this."
He continued: "To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize. I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti- semticism (sic) by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the Documentary I agreed with and disagreed with. I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate. I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all. I am no different than any other human being. I am a seeker of truth and knowledge, and I know who I Am."