Kyrie Irving, a star player for the Brooklyn Nets, had his contract with Nike formally terminated after he was linked to an anti-Semitic post.
The basketball player published an antisemitic post on one of his social media pages. Public outcry was intense, which put pressure on management to defend Irving’s actions. On one occasion, Irving resisted saying he despised antisemitism, which led to more public rumors. The star’s representative, Shetellia Riley Irving, said they would respect the company’s choice.
“We have mutually decided to part ways and wish Nike the best in their future endeavors,” said the agent.
Irving declined to offer his opinion on the matter. But he recently tweeted something that referenced Nike ending his contract. After postponing the sale of the star’s most recent pair of Kyrie sneakers for several months, Nike decided to halt production.
In addition, several well-known people have borne the weight of their anti-Semitic posts in recent months. For instance, Adidas recently cut ties with Ye, sometimes known as Kanye West, due to his antisemitic remarks and videos.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech. And we condemn any form of antisemitism,” Nike said in a statement.
“Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous. And they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness,” said Adidas in a statement months ago.
“After a thorough review, the company has decided to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies. As a result, Adidas will stop the Adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect,” it added.
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Irving overstepping the line
Irving went too far, according to Nike founder Phil Knight. It additionally legitimized mainstream antisemitism in the process. Brooklyn Nets management also suspended Irving’s ability to play on the floor due to the incident. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, urged the sportsman to apologize in front of the public.
“I feel we all should have an opportunity to speak for ourselves when things are assumed about us. And I feel it was necessary for me to stand in this place and take accountability for my actions,” Irving said.
“Because there was a way I should have handled all this. And as I look back and reflect on when I had the opportunity to offer my deep regrets to anyone that felt threatened or felt hurt by what I posted. That wasn’t my intent at all,” he added.
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Antisemitism in public
Due to the recent occurrence of well-known people accused of antisemitism, experts worry that prejudice against Jews may become widespread. Moreover, posts from well-known people can legitimize antisemitism, according to Debora Lipstadt, an ambassador charged with eradicating antisemitism in the US.
“It’s both physical dangers — we just commemorated the anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue [shooting], where people were murdered just for going to synagogue,” she said.
“It’s also little kids learning that instead of [being Jewish] being a source of joy, it’s something that can bring you bodily harm.”
“There have always been threats, and there’s always been antisemitism. But it feels like an epidemic right now. And the spread of hate and lies is just happening at lightning speed. And Kanye opened the floodgates a couple of weeks ago with his comments,” added Beth Kean, Holocaust Museum LA CEO.
Photo Credit: Dustin Satloff