Kyrie Irving suspended by Brooklyn Nets over latest NBA furore

Kyrie Irving is pictured sitting on the Brooklyn Nets bench.
Kyrie Irving has been suspended by the Brooklyn Nets after he shared an anti-semitic film on social media. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

Kyrie Irving has been suspended by the Brooklyn Nets amid the continuing controversy surrounding his promotion of an anti-semitic film on social media.

The Nets' already spiralling NBA season took another turn on Friday, a day after the team fired head coach Steve Nash after a 2-6 start to the 2022/23 season.

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Irving will be suspended without pay for at least five games, after the Nets were dissatisfied with his lack of apology for posting a link to a film which contained 'deeply disturbing antisemitic hate'.

The 30-year-old fronted a combative press conference earlier this week, in which he failed to outright distance himself from holding anti-semitic beliefs.

Irving will reportedly be suspended until he satisfies "a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct."

The former Cavaliers and Celtics guard has been under fire since last week, when he tweeted a link to a documentary on Amazon containing a number of antisemitic conspiracy theories and falsehoods, including a fabricated quote from Adolf Hitler. The tweet has since been deleted, but the aftermath has remained messy for the Nets.

Irving spent days disregarding criticism and insisting he's not an antisemite, first with a tweet claiming to be an "omnist" and having meant no disrespect then the subsequent news conference in which he claimed tweeting the video wasn't akin to promoting or endorsing it.

Adding to the pressure on Irving was his past posting of a conspiracy theory put forth by Alex Jones. During the news conference, Irving disavowed Jones' defamation of the Sandy Hook families that have led to over $1 billion in litigation, but doubled down on the theory he posted as true.

Kyrie Irving leaves Nets 'disappointed' in response to anti-semitism controversy

Irving finally accepted some culpability on Wednesday, when the Nets released a statement alongside the Anti-Defamation League quoting him as saying he took responsibility for "the negative impact" of his post on the Jewish community and saying he didn't believe everything in the documentary to be true.

The Nets said both they and their player would each donate $500,000 to "causes and organisations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities." However, after the Nets suspended Irving, the ADL said it would not accept his donation.

"We were optimistic but after watching the debacle of a press conference, it’s clear that Kyrie feels no accountability for his actions. @ADL cannot in good conscience accept (the donation)," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt posted on Twitter.

The club likely hoped Wednesday's measures would be the end of the firestorm, but several observers noted Irving never actually apologised in the statement, then a subsequent meeting with reporters on Thursday went even worse.

Kyrie Irving dribbles the ball during an NBA game for the Brooklyn Nets.
Kyrie Irving will be suspended without pay for five days by the Brooklyn Nets. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

Asked if he would apologise, Irving deflected. Asked if he held antisemitic beliefs as a yes-or-no question, Irving responded "I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from," echoing the ahistorical Black Hebrew Israelite movement put forward in the documentary, which claims Black people to be the true descendants of ancient Israelites and modern Jews to have stolen their heritage from them.

That was apparently the last straw for the Nets.

"Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicising a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate," the Nets said via a statement.

"We believed that taking the path of education in this challenging situation would be the right one and thought that we had made progress with our joint commitment to eradicating hate and intolerance.

"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.

"Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organisation, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team."

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