The Brooklyn Nets said in a statement Thursday that it has suspended star guard Kyrie Irving for at least five games without pay because he’s “currently unfit to be associated” with the team after repeated refusals to apologize for a social media post praising an antisemitic film.
“Over the last several days” team officials “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,” said the Nets’ statement.
“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,” it added.
But “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,” according to the statement. “This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.”
Irving’s refusal to “disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity” was “deeply disturbing” and constituted “conduct detrimental to the team,” the Nets said.
Irving was widely criticized for tweeting a link to the controversial film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” last week. He said Wednesday that he meant no harm in posting it and didn’t believe everything that’s in the film. But he has yet to apologize — and refused to do so Thursday when he met with reporters.
When asked if he harbored any antisemitic beliefs himself, Irving replied, “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”
Irving had announced Wednesday that he and the Nets would each donate $500,000 toward organizations that work to “eradicate hate and intolerance,” according to a joint statement published with the Anti-Defamation League. But he didn’t come up with the required apology.
To return to play, Irving will have to satisfy a “series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct,” the team said. The earliest he could return is a Nov. 13 game against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Earlier Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was “disappointed” Irving had not issued an “unqualified apology” or “denounced the vile and harmful content” in the “deeply offensive antisemitic” film.