Brooklyn star Kyrie Irving, banned by the Nets for at least five games over his “failure to disavow anti-semitism,” issued an apology late on Thursday for the social media post that sparked the furore.
Irving had declined to apologize when talking to reporters at the NBA team’s training facility earlier in the day, prompting the Nets to deem him “currently unfit to be associated with” the team.
Irving has been under scrutiny since a social media post last week in which he offered a link to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” — a 2018 film widely lambasted for containing a range of anti-semitic tropes.
The Nets said in a statement they had made repeated efforts over the past several days to work with Irving on the issue to “help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions”.
The team said it was “dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no anti-semitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film.”
The statement went on to say that “failure to disavow anti-semitism 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’ announcement came after NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed his disappointment that Irving had failed to apologize or denounce “the vile and harmful content” in the film.
Following those developments, Irving finally offered an apology on Instagram late Thursday night.
“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.
“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.
“I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti-semitism by apologizing 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.”
Irving, widely regarded as one of the best players in the league, had sought to make amends a day earlier when he pledged a $500,000 donation to groups working to eradicate hate.
The donation was, however, rejected by the Anti-Defamation League.
‘Beacon of light’
“Just because I post a documentary doesn’t mean I’m anti-semitic, and it doesn’t mean I’m automatically standing with everyone that’s believing it,” Irving said at the press conference earlier on Thursday.
“When I repeat myself that I’m not going to stand down it has nothing to do with dismissing any other race or group of people. I’m just so proud of my heritage and what we’ve been though,” added Irving, who is of African American and Native American descent.
Irving spoke about Black history and slavery, calling himself a “beacon of light” in darkness.
“I’ve been growing up in a country that told me I wasn’t worth anything and I came from a slave class,” Irving said. “So I’m not here to compare anyone’s atrocities or tragic events that their families have dealt with for generations of time.
“I’m just here to continue to expose things that our world continues to put in darkness.”
Irving, 30, has been at the center of controversy before.
He was sidelined much of last season because he refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and called vaccine mandates a human rights violation.
In October, he was criticized by NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for sharing a video from far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
His post last week referencing the film drew a sharp response from Nets owner Joe Tsai and the team said Thursday Irving would be suspended without pay “until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
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