Shoe company Nike has paused its relationship with NBA star Kyrie Irving after he promoted an anti-semitic film on Twitter—and then subsequently refused to apologize for it. Irving, who plays for the New Jersey Nets, was also suspended for at least five games.
On Oct. 27, Irving tweeted a link to an Amazon listing for “From Hebrews to Negros: Wake Up Black America”, a film that discusses Black Hebrew Israelite beliefs—including that African-Americans are the true descendants of the Israelites. The movie contained, among other offensive themes, Holocaust denial, sparking outrage last week. While Irving eventually deleted the tweet promoting the movie, he has spent most of the last week denying that he was anti-semitic and refusing to apologize for the link. Even at a press conference organized on Thursday at which Irving and the Nets said they would donate $500,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, Irving notably did not apologize for his tweet.
Irving did eventually apologize Friday, on Instagram, but it appeared to be too little, too late for Nike. On Friday night, Nike said it would suspend its relationship with Irving, whose branded shoes are some of the company’s most popular. Execs also scuttled plans to release his latest shoe, the Kyrie 8, which was supposed to come out this month.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of anti-semitism,” the company said in a statement.
Irving’s relationship with Nike was already on shaky ground, after earlier this year he called the company’s plans for the new shoe “trash”.
Irving, 30, is one of the league’s most prominent players—his current contract is worth $37 million—and one of its most controversial. Irving missed two months of the season last year over his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid, and previously speculated that the Earth might be flat, although he later apologized for that as well.