Nike suspends relationship with Kyrie Irving
Nike has parted ways with Kyrie Irving. The shoe giant announced Friday night that it will halt its relationship with the Brooklyn guard, who has been suspended by the Nets for what the team called a repeated failure to "unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs."
The Nets made that move Thursday, and a day later, Nike made its decision as well.
"At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism," the Beaverton, Oregon-based company said. "To that end, we've made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8."
That shoe was to be released later this month. Irving has had a signature line with Nike since 2014.
"We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone," Nike said.
The controversy began when Irving on Oct. 27 posted a link on Twitter to the film "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America." The synopsis on Amazon said the 2018 film "uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel."
The film is filled with conspiracy theories about Jewish people, including false claims that Jews dominated the slave trade.
The following day, Nets owner Joe Tsai wrote on Twitter that he was "disappointed" that Irving appeared to support a film "based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation."
During several press conferences over the ensuing week, Irving refused to condemn antisemitism.
On Wednesday, the team announced in a joint statement with Irving and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that Irving and the Nets would each donate $500,000 to anti-hate groups. In that statement, Irving wrote: "I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day."
However, the following day, the team said it had suspended Irving without pay for at least five games after it became "dismayed" by a media session earlier in the day during which the 30-year-old Irving was asked by reporters directly if he held any antisemitic beliefs.
"Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film," the Nets said. "This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify."
Following the announced suspension, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the organization would not be accepting any donations from Irving.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had earlier Thursday also released his own statement in which he said he was "disappointed" that Irving didn't offer an "unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize," adding that he planned to meet with Irving next week to "discuss this situation."
Irving's tweet and behaviour also drew criticism from across the NBA community. Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said Tuesday on TNT, before the suspension had been announced, that he felt the NBA "dropped the ball" by allowing Irving to continue playing.
"I think he should have been suspended. I think Adam [Silver, NBA commissioner] should have suspended him," Barkley said.
Irving late Thursday night did finally apologize in an Instagram post for not explaining the specific beliefs he agreed and disagreed with when he posted the documentary.
"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," Irving wrote. "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."
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