Kyrie Irving finally apologized early Friday for boosting an antisemitic movie, hours after the Brooklyn Nets suspended him for repeatedly failing to disavow antisemitism. However, General Manager Sean Marks said Irving’s apology was a “step in the right direction” but “certainly not enough,” according to the New York Times.
“There is going to be some remedial steps and measures that have been put in place for him to, obviously, seek some counseling designated by the team,” Marks stated. “We’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.” According to Marks, Irving will be required to meet with Jewish leaders and the team before returning to the game.
Irving has come under fire following a Rolling Stone report that the star guard amplified a film that pushed antisemitic tropes, linking his 4.5 million Twitter followers to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.
After a week of refusals and vague statements, Irving posted a statement on Instagram early Friday morning: “To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize. … I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate. I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all. ”
On Thursday night the Nets announced it was suspending Irving for a minimum of five games without pay. “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 the specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.”
The “media session” referred to in the statement took place earlier on Thursday. Irving was asked by a reporter if he has any antisemitic beliefs. In response, Irving replied: “I don’t know how the label becomes justified because you guys ask me the same questions over and over again. But this is not going to turn into a spin around cycle. Questions upon questions. I told you guys how I felt. I respect all walks of life and embrace all walks of life.” When pressed for a “yes” or “no” answer, the player then added, repeating twice, “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”
In the statement from the Nets, the organization claimed that Irving “is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets” and that he “will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
Earlier this week, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley reprimanded Irving for his antisemitic remarks and criticized the NBA for their lack of action. “When you’re as great at basketball as he is, people listen to you… It hurts me that we have to sit up here and talk about stuff that divides us,” said O’Neal on the show. “We have to sit up here and answer for what this idiot has done. I stand for equality of all people.”
Before the suspension was announced, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played for both the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, wrote a candid letter in his popular Substack. Abdul-Jabbar addressed the Rolling Stone story on O’Neal and Barkley, writing, “I couldn’t be prouder of Shaq, Charles, and Reggie for their bold and straightforward comments. They are at the forefront of Black athletes that are condemning the recent antisemitic social media posts by Kyrie Irving and Ye (Kanye West). It’s a genuine ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”
The six-time NBA champion also pointed out that the “problem of antisemitism is much bigger than Irving or Ye,” as both men are “merely the unwitting spokesperson for the right-wing political movement that is blatantly taking over the GOP.”
The Nets suspension follows Irving’s non-apology on Wednesday, in which he “took responsibility” for his action and said he doesn’t believe that what the film said was “true or reflects my morals and principles.” Both Irving and the Nets agreed to pay $500,000 to support anti-hate causes with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
However, on Thursday after the suspension, the ADL rejected Irving’s donation. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, wrote on Twitter that the organization “cannot in good conscience accept his donation” as it was “clear that Kyrie feels no accountability for his actions.”
Nov. 4, 10:07 apm: This post has been updated to include the Brooklyn Net’s response to Kyrie Irving’s apology