In a news release that said Kyrie Irving is “currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets,” the team suspended him for at least five games without pay Thursday.
The suspension was handed down a little more than seven hours after a rambling and bizarre news conference in which Irving again failed to apologize for linking to an antisemitic film last week on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.
“Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate,” the team said in the statement.
“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. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.
“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. Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
The suspension apparently was enough to get Irving’s attention. Late Thursday night, he posted an apology on Instagram.
“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,” he posted.
Irving has been at the center of a maelstrom since linking to the Amazon page for the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on his social media accounts before the Nets-Mavericks game on Oct. 27.
On Thursday morning, the NBA released a statement from commissioner Adam Silver saying he was disappointed that Irving had yet to make an “unqualified apology.”
“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material,” Silver said. “While we appreciate the fact that he agreed to work with the Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, 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. I will be meeting with Kyrie in person in the next week to discuss this situation.”
Irving was made available to the media after the team’s practice in Brooklyn. He spoke for nearly six minutes but failed to either apologize for the posts or say if he had antisemitic beliefs.
“I didn’t mean to cause any harm,” he said. “I’m not the one that made the documentary.”
When asked if he was surprised that his actions had hurt people, Irving launched into a 3-minute, 20-second soliloquy.
“Where were you guys asking those same questions when I was a kid learning about the traumatic events of my familial history and what I’m proud to come from?” he asked. “And why I’m proud to stand here. And why when I repeat myself that I’m not going to stand down, it has nothing to do with dismissing any other race or group of people.
“I’m just proud of my heritage and what we’ve been through and the fact that this has pinned me against the Jewish community and I’m here answering questions of whether or not I’m sorry or not about something I didn’t create and was something I shared, and I’m telling everybody I’m taking responsibility, then that’s where I sit.”
The suspension is the latest chapter in what has to be one of the most dysfunctional weeks in the history of basketball.
On Saturday, in a fiery postgame news conference, Irving refused to apologize for linking to the movie, saying “I’m not going to stand down for anything I believe.’’
On Monday, a group of fans sat courtside at the Nets-Pacers game wearing “Fight Antisemitism” T-shirts. Irving was not made available after the game.
On Tuesday, the Nets and coach Steve Nash agreed to part ways. (Get the feeling he was relieved?) Irving then scored four points in a loss to the Bulls that dropped the Nets to 2-6.
On Wednesday, the Nets issued a joint news release with the Anti-Defamation League saying that the team and Irving were donating $500,000 each to causes and organizations “that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities.” When Irving failed to apologize during his news conference, the ADL subsequently said it “cannot in good conscience accept his donation.’’
At the end of Thursday’s news conference, Irving was asked if he had met with representatives of the ADL. His response indicated that he had not spoken to them personally. Said Irving: “I was informed that they wanted to have a meeting and we handled it.”
Notes & quotes: Ben Simmons (left knee soreness) now will miss at least four straight games. Interim coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday he will not join the Nets for Friday’s game in Washington or Saturday’s game in Charlotte. Vaughn said Seth Curry will play in just one of those back-to-back games.