Nike Cuts Ties With Kyrie Irving


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Nike terminates business with the Nets’ All-Star Point Guard

On Dec 5, Nike officially announced that they are ending relations with the Brooklyn Nets’ point guard Kyrie Irving. “Kyrie is no longer a Nike athlete,” a Nike spokesperson told NPR and ESPN. After suspending their partnership and taking the Kyrie 8 signature shoe off the shelf, the company has decided to cut all ties with the athlete, after he promoted a documentary that held anti-semitic views and used anti-semitic stereotypes. 

Back in late October, Irving shared a link to a documentary on Amazon that many labeled as anti-semitic. The day after on Oct 28, Nets owner Joe Tsai condemned his promotion of the film. “I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic information,” Tsai said on Twitter. “I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity, or religion.”

The next day, Irving said he was not anti-semitic and did not mean to disrespect anyone. “I am an OMNIST and I meant no disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs. The ‘Anti-Semitic’ label that is pushed on me is not justified and does not reflect the reality or truth I live everyday,” Irving posted on Twitter. “I embrace and want to learn from all walks of life and religions.” However, Irving avoided an apology during a press conference following a loss to the Indiana Pacers. “History is not supposed to be hidden from anybody… my response would be, it’s not about educating yourself on what semitism is, what anti-semitism is, it’s really about learning the root words of where things come from.”

The NBA issued a statement the same night denouncing anti-semitism and hate speech. “Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable and runs counter to the NBA’s values of equality, inclusion, and respect,” the statement read. “We believe we all have a role to play in ensuring such words or ideas, including antisemitic ones, are challenged and refuted and we will continue working with all members of the NBA community to ensure that everyone understands the impact of their words and actions.” 

Irving was suspended from the team on Nov 3, with the Nets and Irving releasing a statement of apology. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post toward the Jewish community and I take responsibility,” Irving said in the post. Afterwards, the team listed six requirements from Irving in order for him to return to the team, including a $500,000 donation to the Anti-Defamation League, which Irving did. The terms, however, were not accepted by the National Basketball Player’s Association (NBPA) and union vice president and Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown. “The terms for his return, they seem like a lot, and a lot of the players expressed discomfort with the terms,” said Brown. 

“I don’t think Kyrie Irving is antisemitic… he made a mistake,” said Brown via the Boston Globe. “We understand from an outside perspective how important it is to not condone anything of that nature… We don’t want to stand up for somebody in order to not condemn hate speech, but I don’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic. And hopefully the NBA feels the same way.”

On Nov 4, Nike announced it is temporarily suspending its relationship with Irving, and announced it will no longer launch the Kyrie 8, Kyrie’s signature shoe, per Shams Charania. “At Nike, we believe thre is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” the company said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.” Jaylen Brown responded, tweeting out “Since when did Nike care about ethics?”

On Nov 10, Kyrie Irving and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held a meeting to discuss Irving’s action. “We had a direct conversation,” Silver, who is Jewish, told the New York Times. “He’s someone I’ve known for a decade, and I’ve never heard an anti-semitic word from him or, frankly, hate directed at any group. Silver said that Amazon bears some responsibility for having the documentary on its platform. “I think Amazon has to make decisions as well,” Silver said. “My first instinct wasn’t that something, to me, that is so frankly vile and full of hate speech would be contained within Amazon Prime.” Amazon CEO Andy Jassey said on Nov 30 that the website will not remove the documentary from the website. 

However, the Nets, Irving, and the NBPA continued to hold talks and meetings, and on Sunday, November 20, Kyrie Irving returned to the court to play the Memphis Grizzlies on their home court in Brooklyn, winning 127-115, after what turned out to be an eight-game suspension. 

The drama surrounding Kyrie seemed to be at an end until Dec 5, when Nike announced that they are officially ending ties with Irving. Shetellia Riley Irving, Kyrie’s agent, said that the decision to split was mutual between the two parties. “We have mutually decided to part ways and wish Nike the best in their future endeavors,” Riley Irving told CNBC. Nike will no longer launch the Kyrie 8 signature shoe, and will end Irving’s $11 million annual contract, which was scheduled to end October 2023, according to CBS. Kyrie Irving responded on his Twitter account, tweeting a gif that read “There’s nothing more priceless than being free,” and replied to Shams Charania’s report with a gif that read “Let the party begin.” After more than a month of events, Irving will no longer be a part of a Nike partnership that lasted eight years.