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Kyrie Irving apologizes for antisemitism controversy after Brooklyn Nets suspend him

By JACOB GURVIS and GABE FRIEDMAN

(JTA) — Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving posted an apology to his Instagram late Thursday night, hours after being suspended without pay for at least five games for failing to condemn antisemitism.

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

“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 in the post.

“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 continued. He acknowledged that he shared the film without clarifying which parts he agreed with and which he did not, such as Holocaust denial. Irving said he had “no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust.”

ADL refuses Irving’s donation, applauds his suspension

Nov. 3, 9:04 p.m. — Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which has been advising the Brooklyn Nets through the Kyrie Irving controversy, applauded the team’s decision to suspend Irving and said his organization would not be accepting a donation from the NBA star.

“Good for @BrooklynNets. @KyrieIrving has been given ample opportunity to do the right thing, apologize and condemn #antisemitism,” Greenblatt tweeted. “He has failed at almost every step along the way. This suspension is well-deserved.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/Ckhj8iIu0HN/

Irving had announced Wednesday that he and the Nets would each be donating $500,000 to anti-hate groups; Greenblatt said Thursday night that the ADL will not be accepting Irving’s donation, adding, “it’s clear that Kyrie feels no accountability for his actions.” It’s unclear how much of Irving’s $500,000 pledge was slated to go to the ADL.

Brooklyn Nets suspend Kyrie Irving for failing to condemn antisemitism

Nov. 3, 8:29 p.m. — The Brooklyn Nets suspended star Kyrie Irving Thursday night, hours after the All-Star said he “cannot be antisemitic” despite promoting an antisemitic film on Twitter last week.

The NBA team had hoped to resolve the episode by “taking the path of education,” it wrote in a statement, but said Irving failed to adequately apologize for the tweet and denounce antisemitism, despite multiple opportunities.

“Such 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’ statement read. “Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets. We have decided that Kyrie will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct and the suspension period served is no less than five games.”

When asked if he’s antisemitic, Kyrie Irving said ‘I cannot be’

Thursday, Nov. 3 — Less than a day after agreeing to donate $500,000 to anti-hate groups, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving would not directly answer “yes” or “no” when asked if he holds antisemitic beliefs.

“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from,” Irving said Thursday after being pressed on the issue by reporters.

“I respect all walks of life and embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit,” he also said.

His comments appear to allude to the theory that Black Americans are the “real” Jews, a belief that is core to Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine and is central to the film Irving promoted in a tweet last week. Irving added that he doesn’t agree with everything that is said in the documentary, calling some of its content, including Holocaust denial, “unfortunate falsehoods.” 

In a statement issued jointly with the Anti-Defamation League and the Nets on Wednesday, Irving said he took responsibility for his tweet and pledged, along with the Nets, to donate $500,000 to “causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate.” The Nets had also announced Tuesday that they were taking advice from the ADL. 

But ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt shared footage of Irving’s comments from Thursday, writing on Twitter: “The answer to the question ‘Do you have any antisemitic beliefs’ is always ‘NO’ without equivocation. We took @KyrieIrving at his word when he said he took responsibility, but today he did not make good on that promise. Kyrie clearly has a lot of work to do.”

Irving was also asked whether he had met personally with the ADL and again declined to directly answer. “I was informed that they wanted to have a meeting, and we handled it,” he said. Greenblatt told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency earlier this week that he is “optimistic that we will be in direct discussions with Kyrie in the very near future.” 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, offered his strongest reaction yet to the episode on Thursday, before video of Irving’s latest comments circulated. 

“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material,” Silver said in a statement. “While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize. I will be meeting with Kyrie in person in the next week to discuss this situation.”

Silver’s comments came after many across sports urged him, the NBA and the Nets to punish Irving for his actions. Former NBA star and TV analyst Charles Barkley, who has a Jewish son-in-law, called Silver out specifically. 

“I think Adam should have suspended him. First of all, Adam’s Jewish. You can’t take my $40 million and insult my religion,” Barkley said Tuesday, referencing Irving’s contract.

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