Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving returned to the team from his suspension Sunday (November 20) night and issued an apology to anyone who felt threatened or hurt by his sharing of a link to a film with antisemitic material.
“I don’t stand for anything close to hate speech or antisemitism or anything that is going against the human race,” Irving said via NBC News. “I feel like we all should have an opportunity to speak for ourselves when things are assumed about us and I feel it was necessary for me to stand in this place and take accountability for my actions, because there was a way I should have handled all this and as I look back and reflect when I had the opportunity to offer my deep regrets to anyone that felt threatened or felt hurt by what I posted, that wasn’t my intent at all.”
Irving missed eight games following what was initially a suspension of at least five games without pay handed down on November 3.
The guard recorded 14 points, five rebounds and one steal in 26 minutes, shooting 5 of 12 from the floor, during the Nets' 127-115 win.
Earlier this month, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, said he had "no doubt" that Irving is not antisemitic following their "direct and candid conversation" at the league's headquarters in New York.
"He's someone I've known for a decade, and I've never heard an antisemitic word from him or, frankly, hate directed at any group," Silver said via the New York Times, adding, "Whether or not he is antisemitic is not relevant to the damage caused by the posting of hateful content."
Silver also acknowledged criticism of the league and the Nets not disciplining Irving sooner "may be fair."
On November 3, the Nets issued a statement via NBA.com announcing that Irving would be suspended for at least five games without pay after the franchise and Silver had publicly sought for the point guard to issue an apology for posting a link to an antisemitic film.
"I feel that we got to the right outcome here in terms of his suspension," Silver told the Times. "And in retrospect, we may have been able to get there faster. I accept that criticism. But I felt it was important to understand the context in which it was posted to understand what discipline was appropriate, not in any way to excuse it but to understand what discipline was appropriate."
On November 4, Nike announced that it had "suspended" its relationship with Irving and canceled the upcoming release of his latest signature shoe, which co-founder Phil Knight later said would likely be permanent.
"I would doubt that we go back," Knight said in an interview with CNBC that aired Thursday (November 10) via ESPN. "But I don't know for sure."
Irving issued an apology to the Jewish community hours after his suspension in relation to what the team referred to as his refusal "to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film."
"While doing research on YHWH, I posted a Documentary that contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion, and I take full accountability and responsibly for my actions. I am grateful to have a big platform to share knowledge and I want to move forward by having an open dialogue to learn more and grow from this," Irving wrote on his verified Instagram account.
"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. 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. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti- semticism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the Documentary I agreed with and disagreed with. I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate. I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all. I am no different than any other human being. I am a seeker of truth and knowledge, and I know who I Am."
“Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate," the team said via NBA.com. "We believed that taking the path of education in this challenging situation would be the right one and thought that we had made progress with our joint commitment to eradicating hate and intolerance.
"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.
"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. We have decided that Kyrie will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct and the suspension period served is no less than five games.”
Irving addressed the incident publicly prior to his suspension and apology and said some of the things in the film were untrue, but not that he shouldn't have posted the link.
"I'm not the one who made the documentary," Irving said via ESPN.
The All-Star was then asked if he had antisemitic beliefs, which he denied, but said, "I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from."
On November 2, Irving and the Nets announced they'd each donate $500,000 to anti-hate causes in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, but Silver said he was still disappointed in the point guard's unwillingness to give a qualified apology.
"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.
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League said that the organization "cannot in good conscience accept" the donation made by the Nets and Irving, according to Huffington Post senior front page editor Phillip Lewis.