Nov 1, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles up court against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta
Nov 3 (Reuters) – The Brooklyn Nets on Thursday suspended star guard Kyrie Irving for at least five games, saying that despite holding a second press conference to address a controversial documentary he had still refused to disavow anti-Semitism.
Irving has faced heavy criticism since posting a link to the 2018 film on Twitter last week and initially defended doing so during a contentious post-game news conference over the weekend.
The seven-time All Star has since deleted the Twitter post and in a press conference earlier on Thursday said he meant no harm. Irving took “responsibility” for posting the link but did not specifically denounce the film or its message, which civil rights activists have called anti-Semitic.
“We were 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 Nets said in a statement announcing his suspension.
The suspension comes at a fraught moment for Jews in the United States, as the FBI warned on Thursday there was a credible threat to synagogues in New Jersey, a state that lies just across the harbor from the New York City borough of Brooklyn, one of the most Jewish places in the world.
The controversy follows another generated by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was suspended by social media platforms last month for posts that online users condemned as anti-Semitic.
The team said Irving would be suspended until he undergoes a series of unspecified “remedial measures,” but no less than five games.
The Nets’ next game is on Friday night against the Wizards in Washington. If he serves a five-game suspension, Irving would be available to play Nov. 13 against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Irving issued a joint statement with the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday, saying he opposed all forms of hatred. He and the Nets said they would each donate $500,000 toward organizations that work to eradicate hate.
The National Basketball Association and union representing its players have also issued statements condemning hate speech. Neither the players union nor Irving’s agent immediately responded to request for comment on Thursday night.
“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive anti-Semitic material,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in his statement on Thursday.
Irving’s social media posts are not the first time that he has courted controversy in the NBA.
He played in just 29 of the Nets’ 82 regular season games for the 2021-22 season after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite a mandate by the city of New York.
While not specifically mentioning the issues with Irving, the Nets parted ways with head coach Steve Nash on Tuesday after a disappointing start to their season.
(This story has been refiled to correct spelling of “world” in paragraph 5)
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California; Editing by Ken Ferris, Ed Osmond and William Mallard
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.