Nike said late Friday that it was suspending its relationship with NBA star Kyrie Irving, the latest fallout after the basketball player shared an antisemitic film on social media and for days refused to apologize or disavow antisemitism.
“We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone,” Nike said.
The rebuke from Nike comes a day after the Brooklyn Nets suspended Irving for at least five games without pay, saying he was “currently unfit to be associated” with the organization after he shared an antisemitic film, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” on social media. The Nets said Irving would be suspended “until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
“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,” the Nets said in a statement Thursday following Irving’s appearance at a news conference. “This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, described the news conference as a “debacle,” adding that the ADL could not “in good conscience” accept the $500,000 Irving had agreed to donate toward anti-hate causes the day before.
Irving had for days refused to acknowledge or apologize for the antisemitism before writing on Instagram late Thursday that he “posted a Documentary that contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion.”
He said he took “full accountability and responsibly for my actions,” adding: “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.” He said he “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.”
Irving has a history of controversy. He was outspoken about his refusal to get a coronavirus vaccine and about New York City’s vaccine mandate. The tiff led the Nets to banish Irving for more than two months last season. Irving said at the time that it was “not a political thing here” but “about my life and what I’m choosing to do.”
The Nets, consumed by Irving’s controversial behavior and mired in a slow start this season, recently parted ways with coach Steve Nash.
Irving’s suspension by the Nets and fallout with Nike comes after Adidas cut ties with Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, after he repeatedly made antisemitic comments on social media. Experts have warned of increasingly brazen antisemitism at a time when incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence directed at Jews have been at their highest levels in decades.
Ben Golliver contributed to this report.