Nike part ways with Kyrie Irving amid anti-Semitism

nike has cut ties with Kyrie Irving and canceled plans to release his next signature shoe, the latest chapter in the ongoing scandal since the Brooklyn Nets guard tweeted a link to a film containing anti-Semitic material.

The shoe giant announced Friday night that it would end its relationship with Irving, who was suspended by the Nets for what the team called his repeated refusal to “unequivocally state that he has no anti-Semitic beliefs.”

The Nets made the move Thursday, banning Irving without pay for at least five games, and a day later, Nike made a decision. These actions followed widespread criticism from, among many others, the Anti-Defamation League and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

“We at Nike believe there is no place for hate speech and condemn any form of anti-Semitism,” the Beaverton, Oregon-based company said. “To that end, we have made the decision to end our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer be releasing the Kyrie 8.”

Irving has had a signature line with Nike since 2014.

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

Irving signed with Nike in 2011, shortly after being the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft that year. Irving’s first signature shoe was released three years later, and the popularity of the Kyrie line brought him a reported $11 million a year from Nike endorsements alone.

The Kyrie 8 was expected to release next week. Previous models of his shoes were still for sale on Nike’s website Friday night.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, who won a title with Irving when they were teammates in Cleveland in 2016, said his position is simple: Hate speech, in any form, cannot be tolerated.

“There’s no place in this world for that,” James said. “Nobody can take advantage of that and I believe what Kyrie did hurt a lot of people.”

James, who has been with Nike his entire 20-season NBA career, said he still has a lot of affection for Irving.

“We as humans, none of us are perfect,” James said. “But I hope he understands how what he’s done and the actions he’s taken are just hurtful to a lot of people.”

Irving posted a tweet — which has since been deleted — last week linking to the documentary “Jews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which includes Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Jews. In a contentious postgame interview last Saturday, Irving defended his right to publish what he wants.

The relegation only continued from there. The NBA issued a statement over the weekend that did not name Irving but condemned all forms of hate speech. Fans wearing ‘Fight Anti-Semitism’ t-shirts. took some courtside seats at Monday night’s Brooklyn-Indiana game, a day after taking down the tweet. The Nets and coach Steve Nash parted ways Tuesday, a development that has been overshadowed by the Irving saga.

On Wednesday, Irving said he opposes all forms of hate, and he and the Nets announced they would each donate $500,000 to groups working to eradicate it. Silver then issued another statement calling on Irving to apologize by name, and Irving declined to give a direct answer when asked Thursday if he had anti-Semitic beliefs.

This is clearly the final straw for the Nets, who suspended him. Hours later, Irving posted an apology on Instagram for not explaining the specific beliefs he agreed and disagreed with when he posted the documentary.

“To all the Jewish families and communities who have been hurt and affected by my post, I am deeply sorry for causing you pain and I apologize,” Irving wrote. “I initially reacted out of emotion at being unfairly labeled as anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process for my Jewish brothers and sisters who were hurt by the hateful remarks made in the documentary.”

A day later, Nike, which had also been criticized for not acting faster, took action.

Irving becomes the second celebrity in less than two weeks to lose a major shoe deal over anti-Semitism. Adidas parted ways with Ye – the artist formerly known as Kanye West – late last month, a move the German company said would result in about $250 million in losses this year after halting production of its Yeezy product line as well as halting payments to Ye and his companies.

For weeks, Yeh made anti-Semitic comments in interviews and on social media, including a tweet that he would soon go to “death con 3 on JEWRY PEOPLE,” an apparent reference to the US defense readiness scale known as DEFCON.

Irving has expressed no shortage of controversial opinions during his career. He repeatedly doubted whether the Earth was round before after all an apology to science teachers. Last year, his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine resulted in him being banned from most of the Nets’ home games.

The Nets played in Washington on Friday, winning 128-86 without Irving. The 42-point victory tied for the fourth-most in Nets franchise history.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said earlier Friday that Irving’s apology is a step forward, but many more steps will be needed before he can continue playing.

“There will be some remedial steps and measures that will be put in place so that he can obviously seek some counseling … from dealing with some anti-hate and some Jewish leaders in our community,” Marks said. “He’s going to have to sit down with them, he’s going to have to sit down with the organization after that and we’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”

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