Nike has suspended its relationship with NBA star Kyrie Irving, the brand announced in a statement tonight.
Footwear News additionally reports that the athletic powerhouse will not launch his Kyrie 8 signature shoe.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. 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. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone,” Nike said in a statement sent to FN.
Irving’s shoe deal is one of the NBA’s top ten, with an average annual value of nearly $11 million. The product is also popular: fifty NBA players wore his signature sneakers last season, second behind only Kobe Bryant, according to the Baller Shoes database. The point guard is ranked 12th on Sportico‘s list of highest-paid players, earning $47.4 million in salary and endorsements.
Irving has faced public backlash after posting a link to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake up Black America” on his social media. He repeatedly refused to denounce antisemitism in the days following the post, and only apologized yesterday after he was declared “unfit” for the Brooklyn Nets and suspended for at least five games.
In addition to the suspension, the Nets said in a statement that Irving has to satisfy a series of objective remedial measures “that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
In his statement, Irving said:
“While doing research on YHWH, I posted a Documentary that contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion, and I take full accountability and responsibly for my actions,” Irving wrote via Instagram. “I am grateful to have a big platform to share knowledge and I want to move forward by having an open dialogue to learn more and grow from this.”
It continued, “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. 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. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti-semitism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the Documentary I agreed with and disagreed with. I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate.”
Irving and the Nets said they would each donate $500,000 each to the The Anti Defamation League (ADL) toward causes and organizations “that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities.” However, the ADL said it would not accept Irving’s donation of $500,000.
“This is an encouraging step from Kyrie,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said of Irving’s apology in a statement. “But actions speak louder than words. Because of his post and previous refusals to walk it back, the antisemitic film/book is now a best seller in multiple categories on Amazon. There is a lot more to do to undue this damage.”
The Nets and the ADL have sent a joint letter to Amazon founder and executive Jeff Bezos asking for the the film — and the book it’s based on — either be removed from the platform or have a content warning attached to the listing.