Nike splits with Kyrie Irving amid antisemitism fallout
(AP) — Nike has parted ways with Kyrie Irving.
The shoe giant announced Friday night that it will halt its relationship with the Brooklyn guard, who has been suspended by the Nets for what the team called a repeated failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.”
The Nets made that move Thursday, and a day later, Nike made its decision as well.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” the Beaverton, Oregon-based company said. “To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8.”
Irving has had a signature line with Nike since 2014.
“We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone,” Nike said.
Irving signed with Nike in 2011, shortly after becoming the No. 1 pick in that year’s NBA draft. Irving’s first signature shoe was released three years later, and the popularity of the Kyrie line led to him making a reported $11 million annually just from the Nike endorsement.
The Kyrie 8 was expected to be released in the next week. Previous models of his shoes were still for sale on the Nike website Friday night.
Nike’s decision came a day after the Nets handed down their suspension, which will last at least five games, and after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he wanted an apology from Irving over his decision to post a link to the documentary “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” — a film that contains antisemitic material.
Irving defended his right to post what he wants, then refused to give a direct answer when asked Thursday if he has antisemitic beliefs. Later, hours after the Nets issued their suspension, Irving posted an apology on Instagram for not explaining the specific beliefs he agreed and disagreed with when he posted the documentary.
“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.”
Irving becomes the second prominent celebrity in less than two weeks to lose a major shoe deal over antisemitism. Adidas was forced to part ways with Ye — the artist formerly known as Kanye West — late last month, a move the German company said would result in about $250 million in losses this year after stopping production of its line of Yeezy products as well as halting payments to Ye and his companies.
For weeks, Ye made antisemitic comments in interviews and on social media, including a Twitter post that he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” an apparent reference to the U.S. defense readiness condition scale known as DEFCON.