Nets’ Kyrie Irving writes message on sneakers after Nike split: ‘I AM FREE Thank you God … I AM’
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving taped up his shoes and wrote a message on them for the team’s game Wednesday night against the Charlotte Hornets.
Irving covered the Nike logo after he and the sportswear giant parted ways over the controversy stemming from his decision to tweet a link to a movie that spread antisemitic disinformation. The tweet led to a suspension from the Nets, and he did not return to the court until certain benchmarks were met.
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“I AM FREE Thank you God … I AM,” was written on one side of Irving’s shoe while the other side read, “logo here.”
A Nike spokesperson confirmed to Fox Business on Monday Irving was “no longer a Nike athlete.”
Nike suspended its relationship with Irving last month and put a halt on the release of the Kyrie 8s. Irving’s sneakers were reportedly a top-five seller for Nike. It is unclear whether the controversy surrounding the Brooklyn superstar would deter another company from signing him.
Irving was suspended for at least five games days after the firestorm over the tweet. He returned Nov. 20 against the Memphis Grizzlies and admitted an apology should have come sooner.
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“I don’t stand for anything close to hate speech, or antisemitism, or anything that is anti going against the human race,” Irving said via ESPN. “I feel like 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 because there was a way I should have handled all of this.”
Irving did not initially have the right response to the issue in the Nets’ eyes, as he did not publicly apologize the first time he had the chance with the media. However, after going through the six-step program the Nets gave him before he could return, he knows he should have gone about things differently.
“It should have been on the first day that I was dealing with all this of just being there for all those that felt like this was antisemitic,” Irving said. “And I should have clarified that I am not antisemitic, and I am not anti-anything when it comes to the way I live my life. So the learning lesson for me was just the power of my platform and the impact that it can cause if it's not taken care of the right way. So meeting with different people within the Jewish community has offered me some clarity on a deeper understanding of what's going on and the impact that was made and the hurt that was caused.”
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Nets team owner Joe Tsai insisted Irving was not antisemitic ahead of his return.