Nike Cuts Ties With Kyrie Irving

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Nike has suspended its relationship with Kyrie Irving and canceled its plans to release his next signature shoe, the latest chapter in the ongoing fallout since the Brooklyn Nets guard tweeted a link to a film containing antisemitic material. The shoe giant announced Friday night that it will halt its relationship with Irving, who has been suspended by the Nets for what the team called a repeated failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.” The Nets made that move Thursday, banning Irving without pay for at least five games, and a day later, Nike made its decision. Those actions followed widespread criticism—from, among many others, the Anti-Defamation League and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, per the AP.

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” the Beaverton, Ore.-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.” The company added: “We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.” Irving signed with Nike in 2011, shortly after becoming the No. 1 pick in that year’s NBA draft. His first signature shoe was released three years later, and the popularity of the Kyrie line led to him making a reported $11 million annually just from the Nike endorsement. The Kyrie 8 was expected to be released in the next week. Previous models of his shoes were still for sale on the Nike website as of Friday night.

Irving posted a tweet—which has since been deleted—last week with a link to the documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America!, which includes Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Jews. In a contentious postgame interview session last Saturday, Irving defended his right to post what he wants. On Wednesday, Irving said he opposes all forms of hate, and he and the Nets announced they’d each donate $500,000 toward groups that work to eradicate it. Silver then issued a new statement calling on Irving by name to apologize, and Irving refused to give a direct answer when asked Thursday if he has antisemitic beliefs. That, evidently, was the last 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 Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize,” Irving wrote. “I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary.” Irving has expressed no shortage of controversial opinions during his career. He repeatedly questioned whether the Earth was round (he eventually apologized), and last year, his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine led to him being banned from playing in most of the Nets’ home games. Irving becomes the second celebrity in less than two weeks to lose a major shoe deal over antisemitism. Adidas parted ways with Ye—aka Kanye West—late last month, after Ye made antisemitic comments in interviews and on social media.

(Read more Kyrie Irving stories.)

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