A tweeted link to an antisemitic conspiracy film has cost basketball star Kyrie Irving his deal with Nike. The sneaker giant has officially dropped the Brooklyn Nets player, even though he has since apologized for the tweet.
Nike has confirmed the end of its $11-million-a-year deal with Irving. Initially, Nike had suspended Irving on Nov. 4 after Irving tweeted a link to the documentary “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on Oct. 27.
“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.
Nike was to release Irving’s Kyrie 8s sneakers. The Nike Kyrie 7s have been among the most popular shoes worn by NBA players.
Many have described the attempted cancellation of Irving as a fight over censorship and freedom of speech. Irving never backed or praised the film, which has been accused of spreading anti-Jewish tropes.
“I’m not anti-Semitic,” Irving said. “I never have been. I don’t have hate in my heart for the Jewish people or anyone that identifies as a Jew. I’m not anti-Jewish or any of that.”
He added, “To all Jewish families and communities that are hurt and affected by my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize.”
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After sharing the link to the film, Irving was suspended by his team, but resumed playing on Nov. 20.
Irving’s agent Shetellia Riley Irving told CNBC the decision to sever the contract was mutual.
“We have mutually decided to part ways and wish Nike the best in their future endeavors,” she said.
Irving seemed to comment on the parting with a video on Twitter.
“There’s nothing more priceless than being free,” the video said.
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Nov. 28, 2022, in New York. A surge of anti-Jewish vitriol, spread by a world-famous rapper, NBA star Irving and other prominent people, is stoking fears that public figures are normalizing hate and ramping up the risk of violence in a country already experiencing a sharp increase in antisemitism. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File)