The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Adam Silver says he’ll meet with Kyrie Irving after ‘reckless decision’

After facing fierce criticism for a social media post about an antisemitic film, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has partnered with the Anti-Defamation League and agreed to donate $500,000 to combat intolerance. (Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving will donate $500,000 and partner with the Anti-Defamation League to combat hate and intolerance following his controversial social media post about an antisemitic film, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday he remained “disappointed” by the seven-time all-star’s handling of the situation.

In a joint statement with the Nets and the ADL released Wednesday, Irving distanced himself from the film and book and acknowledged the fallout from his social media post. The Nets, who have not publicly fined or suspended Irving, announced that they will provide a matching $500,000 donation.

“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” Irving said in the statement. “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.”

Irving, who has faced nearly a week of fierce criticism, stopped short of formally apologizing.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Silver said Thursday that he felt Irving’s statement was insufficient and that he would meet personally with Irving “in the next week” to talk through the matter.

“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material,” Silver said in his first statement on the matter. “While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize.”

Irving briefly met with reporters on Thursday following the release of Silver’s statement but again refused to apologize.

“Where were you when I was a kid figuring out that 300 million of my ancestors are buried in America? Where were you guys asking those same questions when I was a kid dealing with learning about the traumatic events of my familial history and where I’m proud to come from, and why I’m proud to stand here? When I repeat myself that I’m not going to stand down, it has nothing to do with dismissing any other race and group of people,” Irving said. “I’m just proud of my heritage and what we’ve been through. The fact that this has pinned me against the Jewish community, and I’m here answering questions on whether or not I’m sorry or not on something I didn’t create. It was something I shared and I’m telling everyone I’m taking responsibility, that’s where I sit.”

In his original social media post, Irving linked to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on Thursday. When questioned by reporters Saturday about the film’s content and a previous social media post about Alex Jones’s “New World Order” conspiracy theory, Irving denied that he was antisemitic but refused to apologize, arguing that “history is not supposed to be hidden from anybody.” During the heated exchange, he said he had not done anything illegal or harmed anyone. Irving added that the “New World Order” conspiracy theory was “true.”

In the wake of Irving’s post and subsequent statements, the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association, the Nets and team owner Joe Tsai issued statements opposing antisemitism. Irving eventually deleted the post without any public comment, and a group of eight fans sat courtside at the Nets’ win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday wearing T-shirts that read, “Fight Antisemitism.”

“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,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “With this partnership, ADL will work with the Nets and Kyrie to open dialogue and increase understanding.”

Nets General Manager Sean Marks said Tuesday that Irving did not meet with the media Monday or Tuesday because he needed time to “simmer down.” Marks added that he and Tsai were engaged in talks with the ADL.

“I’m certainly not proud of the situation we find ourselves in,” Marks said. “I’d like to get back to basketball. … There is no tolerance and no room for any hate speech or antisemitic remarks in this organization.”

After Brooklyn parted ways with coach Steve Nash on Tuesday, Irving looked disengaged throughout a 108-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, finishing with just four points on 2-for-12 shooting, the lowest point total of his four-year Nets tenure.

The Nets said Wednesday that they would work with the ADL, a nonprofit organization, to “develop educational programming that is inclusive and will comprehensively combat all forms of antisemitism and bigotry.”

“The events of the past week have sparked many emotions within the Nets organization, our Brooklyn community, and the nation,” the organization said in a statement. “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.”

Irving, 30, is averaging 26.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists for the Nets, who are off to a 2-6 start. The No. 1 pick of the 2011 draft has been a lightning rod for criticism for much of his Brooklyn tenure, including his polarizing decision to remain unvaccinated throughout last season.

Sign up for our weekly NBA newsletter to get the best basketball coverage in your inbox