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10 Nov, 2022 18:49

Suspended Nike relationship with controversial NBA star likely finished

The sportswear giant’s co-founder has spoken on its arrangement with Kyrie Irving
Suspended Nike relationship with controversial NBA star likely finished

Nike and Brooklyn Nets NBA star Kyrie Irving are likely to have parted ways for good, according to Phil Knight, the sportswear behemoth’s co-founder.

Nike announced on Friday last week that it had “suspended” its relationship with Irving due to an anti-Semitism row sparked when the controversial guard tweeted a link to a film containing anti-Semitic tropes.

“I would doubt that we go back,” said Knight, when asked about the furor in an interview on Thursday. “But I don't know for sure.”

“Kyrie stepped over the line,” Knight added. “It's kind of that simple. He made some statements that we just can’t abide by and that’s why we ended the relationship. And I was fine with that.”

The Nets franchise suspended Irving for at least five games because the player “refused to unequivocally say he has no anti-Semitic beliefs” when given the opportunity in at least two post-game press conferences. This development also factored into Nike’s decision to suspend its relationship with Nike, Knight confirmed.

“Same situation. He was dug in,” Knight said.

Irving eventually apologized in an Instagram post after the Nets suspended him. He addressed “all Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post”, saying: “I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize.” 

Nike froze its relationship with Irving the following day. “We look at who we sign and how much we pay and we look not only at how good the athlete is but what his or her character {is},” Knight said. “It’s not an exact science, but it’s a process that we go through with a lot of intensity and with a lot of people sticking their hand in it.” 

Irving signed a contract with Nike in 2011 and has had his own signature line of shoes since 2014. His annual endorsement deal with the company is believed to pay him at least $11 million a year.

As is the case with the Nets, though, with whom Irving’s deal also expires at the end of the 2022/2023 season, the two parties are now likely to part ways.

The anti-Semitism controversy is the latest in a string to engulf Irving. In 2021, he missed a number of games due to his refusal to be vaccinated, which clashed with a New York City Covid mandate.

Irving has also supported flat-Earth theories in the past and the views of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, but not when it comes to the Sandy Hook massacre, he has stressed.