Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving again apologized to the Jewish community after posting a link to an antisemitic film. This time, it was a more extensive, on-camera mea culpa instead of the short statement he issued earlier.
While his statement seemed sincere, his refusal to apologize for promoting hateful messages initially during press conferences prompted the team to seek a spoken apology.
His original refusal to denounce the film and apologize for its hateful content earned him at least a five-game suspension without pay and the team said he was “unfit” to be part of the organization. Nike also announced it was suspending its relationship with Irving, while the Nets put forth certain criteria that Irving had to abide by in order for him to return to the court, including meeting with Jewish and anti-hate groups.
Irving has not played since Nov. 1, missing eight games.
“I really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community. Putting some type of threat, or assumed threat, on the Jewish community,” Irving told SportsNet New York on Saturday. “I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions throughout the time that it’s been since the post was first put up. I’ve had a lot of time to think. But my focus, initially, if I could do it over, would be to heal and repair a lot of my close relationships with my Jewish relatives, brothers and sisters.”
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Irving was asked during the interview why he did not fully apologize at the beginning of the firestorm he created.
“I felt like I was protecting my character and I reacted out of just pure defense and just hurt that I could be labeled, or I thought that I was being labeled as antisemitic or anti-Jewish, and I’ve felt like that was just so disrespectful to ask me whether or not I was antisemitic or not,” Irving said.
“Now to the outside world, that may have been seen as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Which rightfully so, it should’ve been, ‘No, I’m not antisemitic. No, I’m not anti-Jewish.’ I’m a person who believes we should all have equal opportunities and that we should all shower each other with love, and that should be at the forefront.”
Since his suspension, Irving met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Nets owner Joe Tsai, and members of the Jewish community. The meeting with Silver was not a part of the Nets’ requirements for his return, but Silver said privately and publicly that he did not think Irving was antisemitic.
“It was a lot of hurt that needed to be healed, a lot of conversations that needed to be had. And a lot of reflection,” Irving said.
The 30-year-old Irving could return on Sunday in a home game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Nets on Saturday evening listed him as questionable for the game.
Contributing: Jeff Zillgitt
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