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Kyrie Irving has support among players even as Nike checks out

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Kyrie Irving has support among players even as Nike checks out
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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is currently on the tail end of a minimum five-game suspension over a “failure to disavow anti-Semitism” in regards to a social media posted link to a film he hadn’t viewed. Only a week ago, the NBA world stood by in silence, but now players are letting their voices be heard.

Initially, Irving defended his post, saying in part, “I can’t be Anti-Semitic if I know where I come from.” As the days went by and the controversy ballooned, he later apologized on social media as talks of his suspension intensified and public animus grew.

While away from the team this week, players outside of Brooklyn have come to his defense. It began with New Orleans Pelicans guard and NBA Players Association President CJ McCollum, who stated, “I think the important part was he did apologize.”

“He’s displayed empathy now. I think this is a learning experience in which I don’t think he understood the magnitude of the movie because he didn’t watch it. I don’t think he understood the magnitude of the people that were affected, how they were impacted and how fast hate can spread and how this can snowball.”

Before Irving is to step foot back into the organization who labeled him as “unfit” to represent them, a list of punitive measures determined by the Brooklyn Nets will reportedly need to be addressed first.

LeBron James, who had previously called his former teammate’s actions hurtful, tweeted on Thursday that Irving should be playing after he apologized. Labeling the punishment as “excessive”, James joins a select few who have stood up for Irving’s character.

LeBron’s Lakers host Brooklyn on Sunday in the first game on the Nets’ schedule after the five-game suspension period for Irving will have passed, according to ESPN. Yet, it remains unclear if and when Irving will return to the team.

Furthermore, ESPN analyst Jay Williams recently voiced his support for Irving and called out the heavy-handed punishment sent his way, analogizing Irving’s treatment to modern-day buck breaking. Williams also called out the national media for their hysteria over Irving but not the likes of Brett Favre.

Nike announced last Friday that it has “suspended” its relationship with Irving and canceled its plans to release his next signature shoe as part of the massive fallout.

On Thursday, Nike announced it’s weighing its options with Irving, the shoe giant’s co-founder told CNBC. “I would doubt that we go back,” co-founder Phil Knight said.

Jaylen Brown, a star for the Boston Celtics, but more importantly, a man of proven principle, checked Nike himself.

It is unclear what Jaylen Brown is specifically referring to here in calling Nike out, but the company has long been linked to supposed unethical business practices. This includes their rumored employment of sweatshops in China wherein workers — including underage kids — are paid far below minimum wage.

Though the recent controversy surrounding Irving may have emboldened Nike to make this move, it has been reportedly in talks for some time now.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes Irving is not antisemitic following a meeting between the two earlier in the week, the commissioner told the New York Times.

Silver, who is Jewish, told the Times, “he’s someone I’ve known for a decade, and I’ve never heard an antisemitic word from him or, frankly, hate directed at any group.”

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