NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets suspended Kyrie Irving for at least five games without pay Thursday, dismayed by his repeated failure to “state unequivocally that he has no anti-Semitic beliefs,” with Irving later issuing an apology for his social media post last week about a book and film that contains anti-Semitic tropes.
Irving had refused to apologize during a post-practice media session earlier Thursday, and the Nets subsequently said that Irving “is currently inappropriate to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
“We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to state unequivocally that he has no anti-Semitic beliefs, nor specifically acknowledge hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had been given the opportunity – but failed — to clarify,” the Nets said in a statement.
“Such a failure to deny anti-Semitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply troubling, contrary to our organization’s values, and constitutes conduct that is detrimental to the team. Accordingly, we believe he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.” “
About four hours after the Nets announced his suspension, Irving issued an apology, which many, including NBA commissioner Adam Silver, had wanted earlier.
In an Instagram post, Irving wrote: “To all the Jewish families and communities hurt and affected by my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize. I initially reacted with emotion to unfairly labeled as Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish brothers and sisters who were hurt by the hateful comments in the documentary, I want to clear up any confusion about where I stand fighting anti-Semitism by apologizing for my have posted the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary that I agreed and disagreed with. I had no intentions of disparaging any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuating any hatred. I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all.”
Irving also wrote that the film “contained some false anti-Semitic statements, stories and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish race/religion, and I take full responsibility and accountability for my actions.”
The Nets said in announcing Irving’s suspension that they made several attempts in recent days to help Irving understand the hurt and danger of his words and actions, but it was clear during the point guard’s post-practice interview earlier Thursday that little had changed.
Irving again refused to apologize, saying 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 held anti-Semitic beliefs, and he did not say no.
“I can’t be anti-Semitic if I know where I come from,” Irving said.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt responded to a video of Irving’s response to that question on Twitter, writing: “The answer to the question ‘Do you have any anti-Semitic beliefs’ is always ‘NO’ without a doubt.
“We took @KyrieIrving at his word when he said he took responsibility, but today he didn’t keep that promise,” Greenblatt added. “Kyrie clearly has a lot of work to do.”
A day earlier, Irving and the Nets had announced, in partnership with the ADL, that they would each donate $500,000 to anti-hate causes.
After the Nets announced Irving’s suspension, Greenblatt tweeted, “We were optimistic but after watching the debacle of a press conference, it’s clear Kyrie feels no responsibility for his actions. @ADL cannot in good conscience accept his donation.”
Silver also demanded accountability from Irving earlier Thursday.
“While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically condemned the vile and harmful content found in the film that he chose to publish,” the commissioner said in a statement released minutes before Irving spoke.
Silver said in the statement that he would meet with Irving in person within the next week.
It is the second straight season that the Nets sent Irving away from the team. Last year was when he refused to be vaccinated against covid-19, which made him unfit to play home games. They eventually brought him back to play road games in December. He was able to return fully in March when New York City’s vaccine mandate for athletes and performers was lifted.
Irving posted the since-deleted link late last week, then defiantly defended his right to do so after the Nets’ home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. The team made him not talk to reporters after their two games this week, hoping to avoid further upset fans, but the time away didn’t change Irving’s stance.
He quickly became defensive Thursday, asking reporters why they weren’t asking questions about the history of black people in America, saying 300 million of his ancestors are buried in the country.
“Where did you ask the same questions when I was a kid and learn about the traumatic events in my family history and what I’m proud to come from and proud to stand here,” Irving said, “and why when I repeat to myself that I not going to argue, it has nothing to do with dismissing any other race or group of people.
“I’m just proud of my heritage and what we’ve been through and the fact that this has stuck with the Jewish community and I’m here answering questions about whether or not I’m sorry for something I did” I created and was something I shared, and I tell everyone I take responsibility, then that’s where I sit.”
Irving was also asked specifically about his beliefs about the Holocaust.
“Those falsehoods are unfortunate,” Irving said, referring to the content of the film. “And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that. Never, ever said that. It didn’t come out of my mouth. I never tweeted it. I never liked anything like that. So the Holocaust ii itself is an event that means something to a large group of people who suffered something that could have been avoided.”
The Nets said Irving’s suspension would last “until he complies with a series of objective corrective measures that address the harmful effects of his conduct.”
Irving will miss at least three road games in Washington, Charlotte and Dallas, a home game against New York and another road game against the Clippers. The Nets are currently 2-6, costing coach Steve Nash his job on Tuesday.
The team declined to give Irving a contract extension this summer after he was unavailable for much of last season. Irving opted out of the final season of his contract, making it possible that he is in his final season with the team.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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