As expected, the Brooklyn Nets will lift their suspension on point guard Kyrie Irving on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Irving has been suspended since Nov. 3 after posting a link to an antisemitic movie on Amazon to his social media. He spoke to reporters on Sunday prior to the game, saying once again that he is sorry for his actions.
“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.”
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Irving didn’t initially have the right response to the issue in the Nets’ eyes, as he didn’t publicly apologize the first time he had the chance with the media. But 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.”
Brooklyn released their own statement on Sunday after making the decision to lift the suspension after eight games missed.
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“Kyrie took ownership of his journey and had conversations with several members of the Jewish community. We are pleased that he is going about the process in a meaningful way,” the Nets said.
The six-step program for Irving is as follows, via The Athletic:
- Issue an apology for posting a link to the movie on Oct. 27, condemn the harmful and false content and make clear that he does not have anti-Jewish beliefs.
- Complete the anti-hate causes that Irving, the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League agreed upon in their joint release on Nov. 2, including a $500,000 donation toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in communities.
- Complete sensitivity training created by the Nets.
- Complete antisemitic/anti-hate training designed by the Nets.
- Meet with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish community leaders in Brooklyn.
- After completing 1 through 5, meet with owner Joe Tsai and lead franchise officials and demonstrate the lessons learned and that the gravity of the harm caused in the situation is understood and provide assurances that this type of behavior will not be repeated.
Many have debated whether the Nets went overboard with their punishment, as Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown called Nets owner Joe Tsai’s remarks on Irving returning “alarming.” Tsai said Irving “still had work to do” last week.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, a former teammate of Irving’s, believed the Nets were going too far.
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, had a lengthy meeting with Irving, and he came away saying Irving is not prejudiced against Jewish people. However, Silver said he understood the Nets’ suspension due to the “uncharted territory” the team was navigating.
The description of the movie on Amazon that Irving posted says the film “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel by proving the true ethnicity of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Sons of Ham, Shem and Japheth. Find out what Islam, Judaism and Christianity has covered up for centuries in regards to the true biblical identity of the so-called ‘Negro’ in this movie packed with tons of research.”
Irving later apologized “to All Jewish families and Communities” hurt by his post but only after the Nets suspended him.
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The 7-9 Nets now get one of the most dynamic scorers back on the floor with perennial All-Star Kevin Durant. Prior to his suspension, Irving was averaging 26.9 points per contest in 38.6 minutes averaged per game. He also sports 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season, though he’s only played eight games.