Nike suspended its sponsorship deal with an American basketball star and canceled its upcoming branded shoe release after sharing anti-Semitic material on social media.
The sportswear giant announced the move after Kyrie Irving was banned for at least five games by his team, the Brooklyn Nets, over the controversy.
The club said it was dismayed at its repeated inability to “say unequivocally that you have no anti-Semitic beliefs”, adding that “he is currently ineligible to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Irving later released belated apologies in which he said he was “deeply sorry” and took full responsibility “for my actions”, having initially defended a retweet of a link to a movie, which includes Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Jews.
The 30-year-old signed with Nike in 2011 and has had a signature shoe line with the Oregon-based company since 2014, with the sponsorship deal earning him $ 11 million (£ 9.7 million) a year. .
Coach Kyrie 8 was due to be released next week but has now been retired.
Nike said in a statement: “At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of anti-Semitism.
“To that end, we have decided to terminate our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch Kyrie 8.”
He added: “We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
However, Irving also faced criticism for his conduct from Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. Kanye WestThe rapper, who was criticized for making anti-Semitic comments on social media and in interviews, showed his support by tweeting a photo of the player.
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In his Instagram apology, Irving said, “I want to clear up any confusion about where I am fighting anti-Semitism by apologizing for posting the documentary with no context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary I agreed with. and with which I did not agree.
“I had no intention of disrespecting Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuating hatred.”
He added: “To all the Jewish families and communities who have been hurt and affected by my office, I am deeply sorry for causing you pain and I apologize.”
In response, Brooklyn CEO Sean Marks said it was a step forward, but added, “There will be some corrective steps and measures that have been put in place for him to obviously seek advice … from addressing some. anti-hate and some Jewish leaders within our community.
“He will have to sit with them, after that he will have to sit with the organization and we will evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”
Earlier this week, Irving and the club announced they would each donate $ 500,000 (£ 440,000) to anti-hate causes.
It is the second consecutive season that the Nets have sidelined Irving.
Last year he refused to be vaccinated COVID-19making him ineligible to play home games.
Irving also previously questioned whether the Earth was round before apologizing to science teachers.