The Brooklyn Nets suspended star player Kyrie Irving on Thursday as the controversy over his tweet with a link to an antisemitic movie grows.
The Nets said that during a media appearance earlier in the day, Irving failed to declare that he has no antisemitic beliefs or acknowledge the content of the film.
"We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film," the Nets said in a statement. "This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify."
The team said he would be suspended without pay for at least five games, and “until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
Irving has been roundly criticized since last week, when he tweeted a link to the 2018 movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which is based on Ronald Dalton’s book of the same name.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday the movie includes “deeply offensive antisemitic material.”
Silver also said Irving's statements since the controversy erupted have fallen short.
"I am disappointed that he has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize," Silver said in part in a statement.
In an Instagram post following his suspension, Irving offered an apology.
“To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize,” Irving said Thursday night. “I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary.”
Earlier Thursday at the media availability, Irving told reporters several times that he did not make the film and that some things in it were untrue. He specified: “I think some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community, for sure. Some points made in there that were unfortunate.”
When he was asked whether he had antisemitic beliefs, he said: "I respect all walks of life and embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit."
Pressed for a yes or a no, Irving responded: "I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from."
The Nets said in Thursday’s statement that his responses were insufficient.
“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team," the team said. "Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets."
Irving and the Nets announced Wednesday that they were donating $500,000 each to organizations and causes that fight hate and that they would work with the Anti-Defamation League. Irving said in that statement that he did not mean any harm and that he opposes all forms of hate.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the organization will not accept Irving's donation. He tweeted that the suspension was well-deserved.
"We were optimistic but after watching the debacle of a press conference, it’s clear that Kyrie feels no accountability for his actions," Greenblatt wrote. The ADL "cannot in good conscience accept his donation," he wrote.
In his Instagram post Thursday night, Irving said he should have handled things differently.
He said he posted a film "that contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive."
Irving said he didn't mean to perpetuate hate. “I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all,” Irving wrote.
Irving joined the Nets in 2019. He is set to make about $37 million this season.
Irving played in just 29 games last season, in large part because of his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19, in violation of city codes mandating the shot at the time.