Nike pulls sponsorship deal with basketball star over antisemitic film post
Nike has suspended its sponsorship deal with an American basketball star and cancelled his next branded shoe release after he shared antisemitic material on social media.
The sportswear giant announced the move following Kyrie Irving being banned for at least five games by his team, the Brooklyn Nets, over the controversy.
The club said it was dismayed at his repeated failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs”, adding that he is “currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets”.
Irving subsequently issued a belated apology in which he said he was “deeply sorry” and took full responsibility “for my actions”, having initially defended retweeting a link to a film, which includes Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Jews.
The 30-year-old signed with Nike in 2011 and has had a signature shoe line with the Oregon-based company since 2014, with the endorsement deal said to earn him $11m (£9.7m) a year.
The Kyrie 8 trainer was expected to be released next week, but has now been pulled.
Nike said in a statement: “At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism.
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“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.”
It added: “We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
Irving has also faced criticism over his conduct by Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, although Kanye West, the rapper who has been criticised for making antisemitic comments on social media and in interviews, showed his support by tweeting a picture of the player.
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In his apology posted on Instagram, Irving said: “I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against antisemitism by apologising 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.”
He added: “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 apologise.”
In response, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said it was a step forward, but added: “There is going to be some remedial steps and measures that have been put in place for him to obviously seek some counselling… from dealing with some anti-hate and some Jewish leaders within our community.
“He’s going to have to sit down with them, he’s going to have to sit down with the organisation after this, and we’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”
Earlier this week, Irving and the club had announced that each would donate $500,000 (£440,000) to anti-hate causes.
It is the second consecutive season the Nets have sidelined Irving.
Last year he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, making him ineligible to play home games.
Irving has also previously questioned whether the Earth was round before eventually apologising to science teachers.