PHILADELPHIA — The environment sowed by Kanye West and Kyrie Irving — that antisemitic vibe casting a cloud over the NBA — has sent Daniel Hazan into feelings of sadness and doubt.
As the NBA’s only orthodox Jew player agent, Hazan has been forced to ask himself recently, “Do my clients think I’m manipulating them?”
“Do they think I don’t have their best interests at heart?”
“It draws a level of concern for me,” he told the Daily News.
It’s difficult to gauge the sentiment of NBA players on Irving’s comments or suspension. Former stars Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Reggie Miller all publicly condemned the Nets point guard, but active players have been eerily silent while the Nets, NBA and players union tread lightly on Irving before Thursday’s suspension.
Hazan, still a relative newbie in the agency business at 30 years old, acknowledged he’s concerned “without a doubt” about alienating himself by speaking against antisemitic propaganda. He’s also worried about causing a fuss because it provides people like Kayne West more fuel for hatred.
It’s an unfortunate consequence of being proudly Jewish and operating in the NBA right now.
“That’s always an issue we have in our community — how do we address it?” said Hazan, who represents NBAers Dennis Smith Jr., Tre Mann and Trevelin Queen, among other players overseas. “I almost feel like when you do address these areas of concern of antisemitism, it just strengthens the level of antisemitism. Because the response is strong. And the media comes out and sponsors drop you and there’s a suspension and it’s like, ‘You see, I told you.’
“So I feel it’s always a lose-lose situation when it comes to these things. Because when you don’t acknowledge it, it looks bad. Then when you do acknowledge it, it looks bad. The fire is continuously burning. What we all just wished is to get an apology immediately and put this thing to bed.”
Irving eventually apologized via Instagram for promoting a documentary filled with anti-Semitic tropes, including the well-worn sewage that Jews control the media and the Holocaust is either fictional or greatly exaggerated. But that apology was only after an indefinite suspension levied by the Nets and a week of Irving doubling down or deflecting in interviews.
“I’m torn between being in this business and wanting to build my name because I’m just getting started in this business,” said Hazan, a New York City product who attended Yeshiva University in Manhattan. “So what am I going to do? Am I going to keep my mouth shut or stick up for what I believe in? It’s unfortunate that I have to be put in that situation.”
Still, Hazan also understands he can’t stay quiet. That was reinforced Thursday when the FBI warned of a “broad threat to synagogues in New Jersey.”
“All it takes is for one fanatic to see what Kyrie says and how he feels — and all it takes is one person out of his 18 million followers who walks into a synagogue with a gun and starts shooting people. Or walks into a Jewish school and starts shooting people.
“Once a guy like Kyrie understands that impact, you understand why we take this so seriously. And why this is a very serious thing for us. A lot of people use the word scared. You may not understand it. But we feel a level of insecurity and it’s the result of these hate statements and what that can generate for us.”