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Nike suspends ties with NBA’s Kyrie Irving over anti-Semitic film

Nike suspends its eight-year relationship with Brooklyn Nets guard after he apologised for promoting anti-Jewish film.

FILE - Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving speaks before the team's NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 19, 2022, in New York. The Nets are suspending Irving for at least five games without pay, saying they were dismayed by his failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.” Hours after Irving refused to issue the apology that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sought for posting a link to an antisemitic work on his Twitter feed, the Nets said that Irving is “currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.” (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
The Brooklyn Nets suspended Irving for at least five games without pay, saying the team was dismayed by his failure to 'unequivocally say he has no anti-Semitic beliefs' [File: Frank Franklin II/AP]

Nike has suspended its relationship with US basketball superstar Kyrie Irving and cancelled the release of his branded shoe after the continuing controversy over his posting a link to an anti-Jewish film.

The Brooklyn Nets already suspended guard Irving for at least five games without pay for his “failure to disavow” anti-Semitism.

Hours later, Irving issued an apology late on Thursday for 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.

But the apology was not enough to stop Nike from suspending ties with Irving.

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” the Beaverton, Oregon-based company said. “To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8.

“We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone,” the statement said.

 

The NBA player has had a signature line with Nike since 2014.

Several media outlets have reported the shoe deal to be worth $11m.

His Nets contract is worth $36.9m this season after having earned nearly $195m in his previous 11 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and the Nets, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

The Nets had said he would be suspended for no fewer than five games and until he undergoes a series of unspecified “remedial measures”.

Since Irving posted the now-deleted link last week, he defiantly defended his decision after the Nets’ home loss to Indiana last Saturday. Then the team 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.

On Thursday, he apologised to those “hurt from the hateful remarks made in the documentary”, and said he took full responsibility for his decision to share the content with his followers, adding the film “contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion”.

“I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against anti-Semitism by apologising for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary I agreed with and disagreed with,” Irving wrote.

The suspension and apology of the seven-time All Star follow 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.

It is the second straight season the Nets sent Irving away from the team.

Last season, he played in just 29 of the Nets’ 82 regular season games for the 2021-22 season after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite a mandate by the city of New York.

Source: News Agencies