Nets suspend Kyrie Irving for at least 5 games without pay
NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets suspended Kyrie Irving for at least five games without pay Thursday, dismayed by his repeated failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.”
Hours after Irving refused to issue the apology that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sought for posting a link to an antisemitic work on his Twitter feed, the Nets said that Irving is “currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
“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. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify,” the Nets said in a statement.
“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team. Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Irving did finally apologize later 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.”
His reluctance to do so earlier Thursday came hours before the FBI said it had received credible information about a “broad” threat to synagogues in New Jersey, Irving’s home state.
The Nets said they made multiple attempts in recent days to help Irving understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, but it was clear during the point guard’s interview after practice earlier Thursday that little had changed.
Irving would say only that he meant no harm. He said some things in “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” were untrue, but he didn’t say he shouldn’t have posted a link to it.
“I’m not the one who made the documentary,” Irving said.
He was later asked if he had antisemitic beliefs, and he didn’t say no.
“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from,” Irving said.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt reacted to a video of Irving’s response to that question on Twitter by writing: “The answer to the question ‘Do you have any antisemitic beliefs’ is always “NO” without equivocation.
“We took KyrieIrving at his word when he said he took responsibility, but today he did not make good on that promise,” Greenblatt added. “Kyrie clearly has a lot of work to do.”
A day earlier, Irving and the Nets had announced, in conjunction with the ADL, that each would be donating $500,000 to anti-hate causes. Greenblatt tweeted Thursday night that his organization could not in good conscience accept Irving’s donation.
Silver felt Irving needed to go further, anyway.
“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,” the commissioner said.
Silver added that he will be meeting with Irving in person within the next week.
It’s the second straight season that the Nets have sent Irving away from the team. Last year it was when he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, making him ineligible to play home games. They didn’t want him to be a part-time player, though eventually brought him back to play road games in December.