Nov 4 (Reuters) – Nike Inc. suspended its relationship with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving on Friday and canceled its upcoming release of Irving-branded shoes following his promotion of an anti-Semitic documentary.
The Nets had already suspended Irving at least five games after he stopped completely disavowing the documentary twice. Irving later issued a fuller apology on Thursday for promoting a project that he said contained “false anti-Semitic statements.”
But the apology was not enough to prevent Nike from suspending its ties with Irving.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn all forms of anti-Semitism. To that end, we have made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving with immediate effect and we will no longer be launching the Kyrie 8.” Nike said in a statement.
“We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone,” the statement read.
Several outlets reported that the shoe deal was worth $11 million, but Reuters could not confirm this.
The Nets also won’t pay him while he’s suspended. He has a $36.9 million contract this season, having earned nearly $195 million in his previous 11 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Nets, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
The Nets had said he would be suspended for no less than five games and until he undergoes a series of unspecified “corrections”.
Irving has come under heavy criticism since posting a link on Twitter last week to a comment from 2018 and defending the post over the weekend. The seven-time All Star has since deleted the Twitter post.
Posting to Instagram on Thursday, he apologized to those “hurt by the hate speech in the documentary”, and said he took full responsibility for his decision to share the content with his followers.
Irving said the film “contained anti-Semitic misrepresentations, narratives and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish race/religion”.
“I want to clear up any confusion about my position in the fight against anti-Semitism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary with which I agreed and disagreed. “, wrote Irving.
The controversy comes at a difficult time for Jews in the United States. The FBI warned Thursday that there was a credible source threat to synagogues in New Jersey, a state just across the harbor from the borough of Brooklyn in New York, which has one of the densest Jewish populations in the world.
Irving’s suspension and apology follows controversy generated by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye Westwho was suspended by social media platforms last month for posts that online users have condemned as anti-Semitic.
Irving’s social media posts aren’t the first time he’s courted controversy in the NBA.
He played just 29 of the Nets’ 82 regular season games for the 2021-22 season after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite a New York City warrant.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California; Editing by Michael Perry
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