Nike ends deals with NBA star over anti-Semitism controversy
Nike has ended its business partnership with professional basketball player Kyrie Irving, saying it does not tolerate “hate speech” after the athlete promoted a film widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
The clothing corporation issued a statement on Friday declaring it would no longer work with Irving, noting that it would not be releasing an upcoming signature shoe design, the Kyrie 8.
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” the 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. We are deeply saddened a disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
Irving has faced major backlash after sharing a link to ‘Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America’, a 2018 film which reportedly denies the Holocaust and alleges that many Jewish people “worship Satan or Lucifer,” among other odd or conspiracy-minded claims. His tweet sharing the film came under fire from his own team, NBA commissioner Adam Silver as well as advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Though he initially reacted negatively to criticism and defended the post, Irving later deleted it and apologized, acknowledging the film contains “false anti-Semitic statements.” Before the apology, he was suspended for at least five games by his team, the Brooklyn Nets, which said Irving had refused to “unequivocally say he has no anti-Semitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film.”
Irving first signed a deal with Nike in 2011 soon after becoming the number-one pick in that year’s NBA draft. His first signature shoe was released in 2014, and the athlete has reportedly earned some $11 million per year from the Nike endorsement alone.