Tsai says Irving isn’t antisemitic; NBPA awaits resolution
Suspended Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving and the Nets appear to be on a path toward reconciliation, though it remains unclear when the seven-time All-Star will return to the court.
Nets owner Joe Tsai said Friday that he and his wife Clara spent time with Irving and his family, and came away from that meeting convinced that Irving does not have antisemitic beliefs.
“We spent quality time to understand each other and it’s clear to me that Kyrie does not have any beliefs of hate towards Jewish people or any group,” Tsai wrote.
Also Friday, the National Basketball Players Association told its members in an email that it expects the Irving situation to be resolved soon. It also thanked players for their patience and what the union described as “thoughtful comments” over the past couple weeks in regard to Irving.
“We believe the careful pause and reflection have started to pay off,” the union said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Irving was suspended by the Nets earlier this month for a minimum of five games, saying he was “currently unfit to be associated with the” team following his decision to tweet a link to a documentary that includes Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Jews and then not swiftly condemning the antisemitic tropes. The tweet has since been deleted.
Irving has served four games of that suspension; the fifth is Saturday when the Nets visit the Los Angeles Clippers. That means the first game Irving could be eligible when the Nets play the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
But no one has given any indication that a decision has been made regarding when Irving — a vice president of the NBPA — may return.
“The Nets and Kyrie, together with the NBA and NBPA, are working constructively toward a process of forgiveness, healing and education,” Tsai wrote.
Nets coach Jacque Vaughn spoke to reporters after practice in New York on Friday shortly before Tsai’s tweet. Vaughn said there was no update on Irving’s return-to-play status. The Nets were flying to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.
Some contents of the union’s email to members were first reported by ESPN.
“We have maintained from the beginning, and will continue to repeat every chance we get, that Kyrie and the Players Association unequivocally condemn antisemitism and all other forms of hate,” the union wrote.
It added, “We continue to make sure that Kyrie’s rights, and the rights of all future players, have been protected at every turn, and look forward very soon to a resolution of all matters satisfactory to all parties.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he has “no doubt” that Irving is not antisemitic; those remarks were made Thursday at a conference hosted by Sports Business Journal. Silver and Irving met in New York earlier this week.
In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Silver stressed that whether Irving is antisemitic is far from the lone issue, noting “the damage caused by the posting of hateful content.”
The fallout has had an impact: Fans wearing “Fight Antisemitism” shirts sat courtside at a Nets game that Irving played in. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving and canceled its plans to release his next signature shoe; Nike co-founder Phil Knight telling CNBC earlier this week that the relationship was likely severed for good for “some statements that we just can’t abide by.”
Irving has offered an apology “to all Jewish families and communities” that were hurt by his post.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this story.
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