Nets, NBA facing public relations problems on two fronts
NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets are embroiled in layers of off-court controversy.
Star player Kyrie Irving is in hot water after tweeting a link to an antisemitic film and the team is in the process of courting a Boston Celtics coach currently suspended for sexual misconduct allegations.
CBS2's Jessica Moore spoke with sports insiders and season ticket holders to find out what they think should happen next.
It's a slap in the face for Jon Bell, a Nets season ticket holder whose law firm is a corporate sponsor of the team. Bell is also Jewish.
"How does this make you feel about continuing to support this organization?" Moore asked.
"So I'm fed up and I'd love to see the Nets completely just get rid of him. I'll take that loss," Bell said.
Eight people sat courtside at Monday night's game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center wearing "Fight Antisemitism" shirts in protest of Irving.
Last week, the veteran guard shared a link to an antisemitic film, sparking outrage from fans but a tepid response from the National Basketball Players Association. The union released a statement Tuesday saying, in part, "Antisemitism has no place in our society. The NBPA is focused on creating an environment where everyone is accepted. We are committed to helping players fully understand that certain words can lead to hateful ideologies being spread. We will continue to work on identifying and combating all hate speech wherever it arises."
On Sunday, Irving doubled down on his post.
"I put it out there just like you put things out there, right," Irving told a reporter.
Watch Jessica Moore's report
Crisis manager Mike Paul told Moore the eyes of the world are watching the Nets and the NBA, neither of which has punished Irving.
"As a crisis manager, I give the Nets a 'D' for their efforts to date, and I give Kyrie, personally, an 'F.' The only way to get through this is to fully own your apology. There is no out," Paul said. "From the league's perspective, I've been saying, you saw what he just did. This is now two strikes. Are you waiting for three? And then most importantly, what message are you sending to the rest of the players who are currently playing in the league about what they can get away with? Do you want this to happen again?"
Meanwhile, the Nets split with head coach Steve Nash after just seven games, and are reportedly finalizing a deal to hire disgraced Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who is currently on suspension for allegedly having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate.
The New York Post blasted the Nets in Wednesday morning's paper, calling the team a "disgrace" for swapping Nash for Udoka and for continuing to play Irving in the name of winning.
"I think before the weekend that Kyrie is going to be forced to not only apologize, but the league is going to be forced to put down a punishment. Look for it within the next couple of days," Paul said.
Paul says fans and sponsors will be watching.
Irving, the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League released the following joint statement Wednesday evening:
"The events of the past week have sparked many emotions within the Nets organization, our Brooklyn community, and the nation. The public discourse that followed has brought greater awareness to the challenges we face as a society when it comes to combating hate and hate speech. We are ready to take on this challenge and we recognize that this is a unique moment to make a lasting impact.
"To promote education within our community, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets will each donate $500,000 toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities. The Nets and Kyrie Irving will work with ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), a nonprofit organization devoted to fighting antisemitism and all types of hate that undermine justice and fair treatment for every individual. This is an effort to develop educational programming that is inclusive and will comprehensively combat all forms of antisemitism and bigotry.
"'I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,' said Kyrie Irving. 'I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility. I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles. I am a human being learning from all walks of life and I intend to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. So from my family and I, we meant no harm to any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light.'
"'There is no room for antisemitism, racism, false narratives or misguided attempts to create animosity and hate,' said Sam Zussman, Chief Executive Officer of BSE Global, parent company of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. 'Now, more than ever, there is a pressing need to ensure education in these areas. We are putting our prior statements into practice because actions speak louder than words.'
"'At a time when antisemitism has reached historic levels, we know the best way to fight the oldest hatred is to both confront it head-on and also to change hearts and minds. With this partnership, ADL will work with the Nets and Kyrie to open dialogue and increase understanding,' said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO. 'At the same time, we will maintain our vigilance and call out the use of anti-Jewish stereotypes and tropes – whatever, whoever, or wherever the source – as we work toward a world without hate.'
"As in past years, the Brooklyn Nets will continue to support and participate in Shine A Light, an ongoing initiative dedicated to spotlighting modern day antisemitism.
"Additionally, to ensure a sustainable and meaningful impact in driving awareness and education on the important topics of hatred based on race, ethnicity, and religion, the Brooklyn Nets, New York Liberty and the teams' affiliated organizations will host a series of community conversations at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, in partnership with ADL and other national civil rights organizations as well as local community associations."
As CBS2's Dick Brennan reports, Irving's statement got instant reaction from New Yorkers.
"He's only giving them money because he's getting hate for it, you know what I mean," Queens resident Davin Glynn said.
"Maybe a little bit more can be done. I'd like to see him more involved in the community than just write a check," Washington Heights resident Daniel Brown said.
"There's no kind of amount of money that Kyrie can give to make it go away, but I'm glad that he did something. At least it's gonna be used for something," East Harlem resident Alberto Espinal said.
Paul says Irving needs to go further.
"It is not a full apology. A true apology has no ifs or buts in it," he said. "When you say that, 'I didn't mean to harm people,' you know you harmed people. That's the whole reason why we're here."
So far, neither the Nets nor the NBA have disciplined Irving.
Wednesday evening, Irving appeared to have taken down the tweet linking to the antisemitic film.