US basketball superstar Kyrie Irving has issued an apology for posting a link to an anti-Jewish film, just hours after his team, the Brooklyn Nets, suspended the player for at least five games without pay for his “failure to disavow” anti-Semitism.
The 30-year-old player had declined to apologise when talking to reporters at the National Basketball Association (NBA) team’s training facility earlier on Thursday, prompting the Nets to deem him “currently unfit to be associated with” the team.
Irving, widely regarded as one of the best players in the league, has been under scrutiny since a social media post last week in which he offered a link to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a 2018 film widely lambasted for containing a range of anti-Jewish tropes.
The Nets, in a statement on Thursday, expressed dismay that “when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no anti-Semitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film”.
The statement added Irving’s “failure” was “deeply disturbing” and against the values of the organisation.
The Nets’ announcement came after NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed his disappointment that Irving had failed to apologise or denounce “the vile and harmful content” in the film.
Following those developments, Irving finally offered an apology on Instagram late on Thursday.
“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.
“I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti-semitism 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.”
Statement from the Brooklyn Nets pic.twitter.com/699px8XYpx
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 4, 2022
The suspension and apology of the seven-time All Star follow after recent controversy generated by Ye, the music superstar formerly known as Kanye West.
The rapper was suspended by social media platforms for posting offensive and anti-Semitic remarks. German sportswear giant Adidas was one of many companies to end its partnership with Ye over his comments.
Irving out for second season
It is the second-straight season that the Nets have sent Irving away from the team.
Irving posted the since-deleted link late last week, then defiantly defended his right to do so after the Nets’ home loss to Indiana on Saturday. The team had advised him not speak to reporters after their two games this week, hoping to avoid further upsetting fans, but the time away did not change Irving’s stance.
He quickly grew defensive on Thursday, asking reporters why they were not asking questions about the history of Black people in the United States, saying 300 million of his ancestors are buried in the country.
“Where were you guys asking those same questions when I was a kid learning about the traumatic events of my familial history and what I’m proud to come from and proud to stand here,” Irving said, “and why when I repeat myself that I’m not going to stand down, it has nothing to do with dismissing any other race or group people.
|I’m just proud of my heritage and what we’ve been through and the fact that this has pinned me against the Jewish community and I’m here answering questions of whether or not I’m sorry or not about something I didn’t create and was something I shared, and I’m telling everybody I’m taking responsibility, than that’s where I sit.”
Irving was also asked specifically about his beliefs regarding the Holocaust.
“Those falsehoods are unfortunate,” Irving said, referring to content in the film. “And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that. Never, ever have said it. It’s not come out of my mouth. I never tweeted it. I never liked anything like it. So the Holocaust in itself is an event that means something to a large group of people that suffered something that could have been avoided.”
The Nets said Irving’s suspension would last “until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct”.
Irving and the Nets said each would donate $500,000 towards organisations that work to eradicate hate.