Nike halted its relationship with the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving on Friday ahead of a new product that the company was set to launch with Irving that is part of an endorsement deal that the company has with him.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” the company said. “We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
The team issued a statement this week saying that they have suspended Irving for at least five games without pay for failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs,” adding that he was “currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
“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 actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing anti-Semitic hate,” the team’s statement reads. “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.”
The problems for Irving started when he shared a link to his millions of followers of a film called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on October 27. After backlash ensued, Irving tweeted, “The ‘Anti-Semitic’ label that is being pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live in everyday,” and deleted the original tweet, but didn’t apologize.
On October 28, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai posted a statement in which he said, “I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation. I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.”
After the Nets’ game on October 29, Irving was asked at a press conference about his “promotion” of the movie through his tweet. He responded, “Will you please stop calling it a promotion? What am I promoting?”
“You put it out on your platform,” the reporter suggested.
“I put it out there just like you put things out there, right?’ Irving declared. “Let’s move on. Don’t dehumanize me up here. … I don’t have to understand anything from you.”
The NBA later responded to Irving’s remarks in a statement saying that anti-Semitism is unacceptable in the league.
“Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion and respect,” the statement said. “We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions.”
Hank Berrien and Brandon Drey contributed to this report.