Nets say Kyrie Irving’s apology isn’t enough to end suspension
WASHINGTON – Nets guard Kyrie Irving, suspended indefinitely for his social media posts promoting an anti-Semitic movie, will have to meet with Jewish leaders and the team before returning to the game, general manager Sean Marks said Friday. .
The comments came a day after the team announced it had suspended Irving without pay for at least five games because he “refused to state unequivocally that he has no anti-Semitic beliefs, nor to acknowledge specific hate material” in the film he announced last week.
“There will be some corrective steps and measures put in place so obviously he’ll seek counseling as determined by the team,” Marks said, adding, “We’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”
On Friday, Nike, which has manufactured Irving’s popular signature shoe since 2014, announced that it was ending its relationship with him “effectively” and would not be releasing the next version of his shoe, the Kyrie 8.
“At Nike we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of anti-Semitism,” the company said in a statement, adding: “We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
Last week, Irving posted a link to the anti-Semitic film on Twitter and posted a screenshot of an online movie rental site on Instagram. While fans, team leaders and even NBA commissioner Adam Silver urged Irving to apologize, Irving resisted until he was suspended Thursday.
“I think we started this by trying to work through the education part of this and educate all the parties involved,” Marks said. “That obviously didn’t work.”
Hours after the team announced his suspension, Irving apologized in a late-night Instagram post, saying, “To all the Jewish families and communities who were hurt and affected by my post, I am deeply sorry for the pain I caused you and I apologize.”
Marks spoke to reporters at Friday morning’s game before the game against the Washington Wizards during a tumultuous week. It’s the Nets one of the worst teams in the NBAwith a 3-6 record, and they fired their coach, Steve Nashon Tuesday.
Anti-Semitism in America
Anti-Semitism is one of the longest-standing forms of prejudice, and those who monitor it say it is now on the rise across the country.
Marks said Irving’s apology was “a step in the right direction” but “certainly not enough.”
He added that he has not spoken to Irving since he apologized and that the Nets were not considering letting him go. As for whether Irving has shown any willingness to meet the team’s mandates for his return, Marks said, “I think we’ll give him some time, and that’s up to him.”
He continued: “His actions will speak louder than words. And if he wants to be a part of it, we’ll see where it all goes.”
Nets forward Kevin Durant, the team’s best player, also addressed reporters on Friday, but did not criticize Irving. Durant and Irving, who are friends, both joined the Nets in 2019.
“I’m not here to judge anybody or put down life or how they feel or their attitudes or anything,” Durant said. “I just didn’t like anything that happened. I felt like it was all unnecessary. I felt like we could have kept playing basketball and kept quiet as an organization. I just don’t like any of it.”
Asked if he thought Irving’s suspension was unfair, Durant said, “I trust and believe in the organization to do what’s right.”
“I just want to clarify the statements I made at the shooting, I see some people are confused,” Durant said. “I don’t condone hate speech or anti-Semitism, I’m about always spreading love. Our game brings people together and I want to make sure that’s at the forefront.”
The backlash against Irving, 30, began last week when he tweeted a link to the 2018 film “Hebrews to Blacks: Black America Awakens,” which promotes several forms of anti-Semitism. On Saturday, after the loss to the Indiana Pacers, Irving reiterated his support for the film and the anti-government conspiracy theory promoted by Infowars host Alex Jones.
Nets owner Joe Tsai and Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, were among those who did criticized Irving for the post. Silver, the commissioner, called Irving’s post “reckless” and said he would meet with Irving soon. But even after Irving announced with the ADL on Wednesday that he would donate $500,000 to anti-hate causes, he spoke to reporters and refused to apologize. He admitted that there were some things in the film that he did not agree with, although he did not specify what they were about.
“Some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and community, for sure,” Irving said Thursday. “Some of the things that were put out there were unfortunate.”
That was around noon. Within 12 hours, the Nets suspended him, saying he was “unfit to be associated” with the team, and Greenblatt said the ADL could not “in good conscience” accept his donation. (The donation announcement did not say that Irving’s funds, or an equal amount from the Nets, would go to the ADL. A Nets spokesman later said the team and the ADL would work together to decide where the donations would go.)
Representative Yvette Clarke, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn, said in a post on Twitter that Irving’s suspension was “long overdue” and that anti-Semitism “has no place in Brooklyn or anywhere else.”
In response to Irving’s apology, Greenblatt tweeted Friday morning: “Actions speak louder than words.” Because of his post and previous refusals to return it, the #antisemitic movie/book is now a multi-category bestseller on @amazon. There is much more to be done to reverse this damage.”
As of Friday afternoon, the film was ranked No. 1 among documentaries on Amazon, and the companion book of the same name was ranked No. 1 in the Christian education category.
Irving said in his apology that he “initially reacted out of emotion to being unfairly labeled as anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish brothers and sisters.”
The drama surrounding Irving’s posts and his current absence have added to the woes of a shaky Nets team that entered the season less than three weeks ago with championship aspirations. On Friday, Durant spoke about the role the media played in Irving’s situation.
“This is the NBA way now,” Durant said. “There’s so much media now, and their stories are hits pretty quickly now. So that’s where all the chaos comes from — everyone’s opinion. Everyone has their own opinion on the situation, and we listen to them non-stop.
“But once the ball starts bouncing and we start practicing, none of that really goes into the gym. So that’s the cool part of being in the league.”
Irving will be out until at least November 13, when the Nets are in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers. This will put much of the offensive burden on the 34-year-old Durant. Ben Simmons, who starts at guard alongside Irving, is injured for the last two games and is expected to miss at least two more games with left knee soreness.
The Nets also have not announced a permanent head coach to replace Nash; assistant coach Jacque Vaughn has been filling in since Nash was fired Tuesday.
Tania Ganguly contributed to this report from New York.
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