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Nike has officially severed ties with Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving after posting and defending a link to an antisemitic film. “Kyrie Irving is no longer a Nike athlete,” the company said in a statement to ABC News.
BREAKING: Nike has officially cut ties with Kyrie Irving ??? pic.twitter.com/wHRbiBLK3o
— RapTV (@Rap) December 5, 2022
Many have pointed out the hypocrisy in condemning Irving for the post, however, none of the same criticism toward the platform providing the content. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy recently defended his retailer, who must allow access to different viewpoints “even if they are objectionable.”
Yet, after receiving ubiquitous condemnation in late October, Irving was suspended by his team in November for mishandling the offensive incident. Refusing to apologize initially, Irving vehemently argued, “I can’t be antisemitic if I know who I am.”
Unsatisfied with his unwavering resolve, Irving later apologized only to be suspended for “at least” five games on Nov. 3 by the Nets for failing to “disavow antisemitism” when questioned earlier by the media.
One day after the team’s suspension, Nike announced it was suspending its relationship with Irving.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” Nike said in a statement. “To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
The Nets followed up with their own statement: “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 specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.”
Though many conclusions had been reached about Irving, after meeting with him during his suspension, both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai confirmed he is not antisemitic. Yet, even after satisfying a list of demands by the Nets, Irving has been released from the lucrative sneaker deal, reportedly worth $11 million a year.
Irving took to Twitter shortly after the news was made public.
Kyrie Irving posted this to his Instagram after getting dropped from Nike pic.twitter.com/G92zWWAWpa
— An0maly (@LegendaryEnergy) December 6, 2022
Irving signed a deal with Nike in 2011 when he left Duke University and entered the NBA draft. His first line of signature shoes was released in 2014 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At the same time as Irving’s deal with Nike was suspended, it announced the cancellation of the launch of the Kyrie 9 shoe.
Though brother-in-Nike LeBron James came to his former championship teammate’s defense, his influence didn’t stop the sneaker behemoth from dropping one of its most popular selling brands. Irving acknowledged those who have supported him throughout his career.
Anyone who has even spent their hard earned money on anything I have ever released, I consider you FAMILY and we are forever connected.
it’s time to show how powerful we are as a community.
— Hélà (@KyrieIrving) December 5, 2022
Kyrie Irving had gotten into public spats with Nike and the Nets in recent years.
Tension has brewed between Irving and the Nets ever since he was unable to play home games for the Nets earlier in the pandemic due to his refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccine. The front office has soured on him and his on-court performance which — while dazzling — has not led to meaningful wins. Add to that, Nets honcho, Kevin Durant, requested a trade over the summer from the “dumpster fire franchise” and remains in active trade speculation.
According to Fortune, in 2021, Irving called his Kyrie 8 sneaker “trash” and said Nike was planning to release it without his approval. ESPN said in May that the contract was already unlikely to be renewed after this season, and Irving’s latest controversy may have been the deciding factor in terminating the deal.
Nike Executive Chairman Mark Parker once singled out Irving’s sneakers in 2019 as a key part of Nike’s basketball product pipeline over the next few seasons. Irving’s shoe line saw double-digit sales growth that spring, Parker said at the time.
With Kyrie becoming a sneaker free agent, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is reportedly next in line to represent Nike.
Memphis Grizzlies All-NBA star Ja Morant is in line to receive a new signature shoe at Nike in the near future, industry sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. The parties have been working on this for several months. https://t.co/RzKf9JEIf1
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 5, 2022
This was a deal that the parties have been reportedly working on for “several months” so the timing likely has little to do with Irving’s exit.
Morant is averaging 28.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.1 steals per contest in 20 games. The former second-overall pick is also shooting 46.4% from the field and 37.0% from the three-point range.
Last season, he made his first All-Star Game and led the Grizzlies to the second round of the NBA Playoffs (they were also the second seed in the Western Conference).