The Brooklyn Nets have suspended Kyrie Irving five games without pay, the team announced Thursday, after a turbulent week in which the All-Star posted a link to an antisemitic video on Twitter and declined to apologize.
After reportedly spending the last several days trying to help Irving understand the film contained "deeply disturbing antisemitic hate," the Nets said they were "dismayed" Irving had failed to say he holds no antisemitic beliefs when asked on Thursday and such a failure made him unfit to be associated with the organization.
Irving will reportedly be suspended until he satisfies "a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct."
Statement from the Brooklyn Nets pic.twitter.com/699px8XYpx
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 4, 2022
The full statement can be read at the end of this article.
The earliest Irving will be able to return is on Nov. 13 in a road game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
How Kyrie Irving received a suspension from the Nets
Irving 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 in a combative 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.
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 organizations 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.
Joint statement from Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Anti-Defamation League pic.twitter.com/5szamIClsh
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 2, 2022
The club likely hoped Wednesday's measures would be the end of the firestorm, but several observers noted Irving never actually apologized in the statement, then a subsequent meeting with reporters on Thursday went even worse.
Asked if he would apologize, 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.
Kyrie Irving has received widespread NBA criticism, except from active players
Throughout the saga, criticism of Irving hit a crescendo from across the league, with one notable exception.
One day after Irving posted the video, Nets owner Joseph Tsai tweeted that he was "disappointed" his All-Star point guard apparently supported "a film based on a book filled with antisemitic disinformation." The Nets followed that up with their own statement merely saying they have no tolerance for hate speech, though Irving was allowed to continue playing at that point.
The NBA released a similar statement condemning hate speech without identifying Irving by name, as did the National Basketball Players Association, of which Irving is a vice president.
Some of Irving's harshest critics have been former players, like when Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal both referred to him as an "idiot" during TNT's "Inside the NBA" on Tuesday, with Barkley questioning why the NBA hadn't suspended him. Amar'e Stoudemire, who coached Irving for two seasons as a Nets assistant and converted to Judaism in 2020, said Irving needs to apologize and said there needed to be a conversation about suspending him.
A group that has barely criticized Irving is active NBA players, though, as Cleveland Cavaliers center Robin Lopez appears to be the only player currently on a roster to say a word against Irving, and even that was merely a retweet of a Substack blog from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The morning before Irving's suspension, the league released a statement from NBA commissioner Adam Silver calling Irving's post a "reckless decision" and calling for him to offer "an unqualified apology" while acknowledging his step with the Anti-Defamation League.
Silver said he would meet with Irving next week to discuss the matter.
The following was released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/iD3GkJvekR
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) November 3, 2022
Nets were already facing turbulence without Kyrie Irving
The Irving matter has been the biggest issue for the Nets, but the team's issues go even beyond the behavior of their point guard.
The Nets, who entered the season with clear title aspirations, currently hold a 2-6 record. They have already fired head coach Steve Nash and are currently without former All-Star Ben Simmons due to a knee issue.
Expected to be a perennial contender when Kevin Durant and Irving signed with the team in 2019, the Nets have languished through early playoff exits and extended absences for Irving, who missed much of last year over his refusal to get vaccinated. That penchant for absences has now officially been extended into this season.
"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 publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate. 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 organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team. 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."