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On Thursday evening it was announced Kyrie Irving is now suspended from the Brooklyn Nets for a minimum of five games without pay in response to his refusal to unequivocally disavow anti-Semitism after a week of media statements surrounding the controversial social media post.
Hours after his suspension was announced and after declining to apologize or denounce anti-Semitism earlier in the day, Irving responded on Instagram apologizing for his comments for the first time.
Earlier in the week at a Tuesday press conference, Nets general manager Sean Marks said that the Nets did not want to “cause more fuss right now” by allowing Irving to have “more interaction with people.”
Two days later, the Nets’ decision to suspend Irving came 24 hours after both parties issued a joint statement with the Anti-Defamation League pledging to contribute $1 million to organizations that work to “eradicate hate and intolerance.” However, the ADL later said on Thursday that it was rejecting the $500,000 from Irving because it could not “in good conscience” accept his money.
The coordinated donations at the time was seen as the likely last step in the seemingly never-ending chaos which began a week ago when Irving tweeted a link to the movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.”
On Thursday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver joined the mass disapproval and admonished Irving for not apologizing after he promoted a movie that contains anti-Semitic themes, only for Irving to respond with another set of defiant remarks in a news conference.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that,” Irving added. “The Holocaust in itself is an event that means something to a large group of people that suffered something that could have been avoided.”
“Such a failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team,” the Nets said. “Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Born in New Jersey, Irving has long prided himself for thinking outside of the box, and while assertions that the earth is flat doesn’t hurt anyone in particular, refusing to apologize for offending another marginalized group can in fact cause harm to real people.
ADL is working with @FBINewark as they mobilize to address this credible threat. We advise that synagogues and other Jewish organizations remain calm and in heightened state of alert. https://t.co/sQvaXSYJ3H
— ADL New York / New Jersey (@ADL_NYNJ) November 3, 2022
Even still, a defiant Kyrie Irving said, “I’m not going to stand down. It has nothing to do with dismissing any other race or group of people. I’m just proud of my heritage, and what we’ve been through.”
Earlier in the day, when asked at a press conference if he has antisemitic beliefs, Irving said, “I told you guys how I felt. I respect all walks of life and embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit. I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”
While Irving references Black America and our roots to the origins of Judaism, he does so without the recognition of the horrors survived then and now. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitic behavior nationwide, found 2,717 incidents in 2021. That’s a 34 percent rise from the year before and averages out to more than seven anti-Semitic incidents per day.
What’s next for Kyrie Irving
According to the Wall Street Journal, the team had said on Thursday prior to the post that Irving would remain sidelined without pay—Irving’s contract pays him more than $36 million this year—until he satisfies “a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
Silver broke his public silence and criticized Irving’s comments, calling his decision to post a link to the film reckless and castigating him for neither apologizing nor denouncing the film’s contents. He said that he would be meeting Irving in person over the next week, suggesting that charitable donations and public statements were insufficient to resolve the ongoing matter.