Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who has been suspended since Nov. 3, said during a television interview published on Saturday that he wanted to “apologize deeply” for his posting of a link to an antisemitic film.
“I’m not antisemitic,” Irving told SNY, a local New York outlet in his first at-length interview since his suspension from the team. “I never have been. I don’t have hate in my heart for the Jewish people or anyone that identifies as a Jew. I’m not anti-Jewish or any of that.”
Irving, who spoke through videoconferencing, reflected on his absence from basketball and the widespread criticism of his behavior after his post on Twitter, saying that he now understands “the power of my voice, the influence that I have.”
“I’m no one’s idol, but I am a human being that wants to make impact and change. In order to do that, I have to live responsibly and set a greater example for our youth, for my generation and the older generation,” he said. “So I just think I really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community.”
On Oct. 27, Irving posted a link on Twitter to a 2018 film called “Hebrew to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” a movie driven by antisemitic tropes, including false assertions about the Holocaust. The tweet was eventually deleted.
In multiple combative news conferences with reporters, Irving declined to apologize for posting the video and to say directly whether he had antisemitic views, spurring widespread outrage and criticism within and beyond N.B.A. circles. He also said during one of those appearances that he believed in a “new world order” conspiracy theory pushed by the Infowars broadcaster Alex Jones.
In the video of the interview published on Saturday, Irving was asked about his views on Jews, but not about Jones or his suspension — and potential return — to the sport.
Shortly after the interview was published, the Nets upgraded Irving’s status to “questionable” for Sunday’s game, which is a designation typically given to a player working his way back from an injury whose status has yet to be finalized. The Nets are slated to host the Memphis Grizzlies and the fact that Irving was mentioned in the team’s status report could indicate his suspension is coming to an end.
“Kyrie took ownership of his journey and had conversations with several members of the Jewish community,” the Nets said in a statement. “We are pleased that he is going about the process in a meaningful way.”
Since the suspension, the 30-year-old Irving lost a shoe deal with Nike and his future with the Nets was thrown into doubt. He apologized in an Instagram post after the suspension was announced, but the team’s general manager, Sean Marks, said on Nov. 4 that the apology wasn’t enough. Irving, a seven-time All-Star in the last year of his contract with the Nets, has long been one of the N.B.A.’s more controversial players while also being one of its most talented guards. In the past, he has publicly trafficked in other false conspiracy theories, such as the earth being flat. Last season, he became a cause célèbre for those opposed to government vaccine mandates when he declined to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, which kept Irving from playing in most of last year’s home games.
N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with The Times on Nov. 10 that he did not believe Irving to be antisemitic. Irving has so far missed eight games.
Irving described his period away from the franchise as “a learning journey” and that there “was a lot of hurt that needed to be healed.” He also said he had done “a lot of reflection.”
“I got a chance to do that with some great people from the Jewish community, from the Black community, you know, from the white community,” Irving said. “I’ve had so many conversations with all of our races and cultures and religious groups of people just trying to better my perspective on how we live a more harmonious life.”
Irving did not specify who specifically he had conversations with, but said that he is a “man who stands for peace.”
“I don’t condone any hate speech or any prejudice, and I don’t want to be in a position where I’m being misunderstood on where I stand in terms of antisemitism or any hate for that matter, for anybody in this world,” Irving said. “So the process over the last few weeks was just a lot of conversations. I don’t want to get too deep into the details of those conversations, but they were very moving, very impactful. And it helped me become more aware of the repair that needed to be done.”
Asked about his intent in tweeting the link to the video, Irving said he had “meant no harm.”
“I wanted to share the link with all those that were also on the same journey in search for their heritage as I am on,” Irving said. “The unfortunate aspect in that three-hour documentary is the antisemitic remarks. You know, in terms of generalizing Jewish people, I believe that was unfair and that wasn’t the aspect of the post that I wanted the focus to be on.”
He added, “It was just a post. It was no context I’ll put into it.”
Irving also cited his background growing up in West Orange, N.J., which he described as a “melting pot,” as part of the reason he did not unequivocally denounce antisemitism initially.
“I grew up around Jewish people,” Irving said. “I grew up around, you know, different white people that identified as their own heritage. And I’ve identified as my own heritage. And, you know, within all that, as a kid, I really picked up early on that we are really legitimately one human race and it is our job as human beings to protect one another.”
He added, “All in all, I felt like I was protecting my character. And I reacted out of, you know, just pure defense and I’m just hurt that I could be labeled or I thought that I was being labeled as anti Semitic or anti-Jewish. And I felt like that was just so disrespectful to ask me whether or not I was antisemitic or not.”