The Nets suspended guard Kyrie Irving indefinitely Thursday for his “failure to disavow antisemitism” since he posted a link to an antisemitic movie on Twitter last week, though he had said there were some things in the movie he did not agree with.
“I didn’t mean to cause any harm,” Irving said after a Nets practice Thursday. “I’m not the one that made the documentary.”
Irving declined to apologize for the post, and when asked what specific points in the movie he did not agree with, he responded vaguely.
“Some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community, for sure,” Irving said. “Some points made in there that were unfortunate.”
The Nets said in a statement that Irving’s suspension would last at least five games, adding that Irving’s “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.”
Last week, Irving posted a link on Twitter to the movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which is driven by antisemitic tropes about Jewish people lying about their origins. Its false and outlandish claims about Jews include the assertion that the Holocaust never happened.
“Those falsehoods are unfortunate,” Irving said when asked if he believed that the Holocaust occurred, despite what the movie said. “And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that. Never ever have said it. It’s not come out of my mouth. I never tweeted it. I never liked anything like it. So, the Holocaust in itself is an event that means something to a large group of people that suffered something that could have been avoided.”
On Sunday, Irving deleted the Twitter post that included the movie link, but he had not spoken publicly since Saturday. That night, during a postgame news conference, Irving argued with a reporter about whether he was promoting the movie by posting about it on Twitter.
The Nets said in their statement Thursday that Irving was “currently unfit to be associated” with the team.
In the past week, the N.B.A. and its players’ union released statements condemning antisemitism without naming Irving. The Nets owner Joe Tsai said in a tweet that he was “disappointed” with Irving and would speak to him.
In a statement Wednesday night, Irving and the Nets said they would each donate $500,000 to unspecified causes and organizations that combat hate in their communities. The statement was jointly released by Irving, the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that fights antisemitism. When asked Thursday if he had met with the Anti-Defamation League, Irving said he was told that the organization wanted a meeting and “we handled it.”
Irving did not apologize in the statement Wednesday, but he said he took responsibility for his post.
On Thursday morning, less than an hour before Irving spoke, N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver expressed disappointment that Irving had not “offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize.” Silver said he planned to meet with Irving within the next week.
Irving spoke to reporters for about six minutes Thursday before a member of the Nets’ public relations team ended the news conference. Irving spent half of that time responding to a question about whether he was surprised that his Twitter post hurt people.
“I think I can ask a better question which is, where were you when I was a kid figuring out that 300 million of my ancestors are buried in America?” said Irving, who has African American and Native American heritage. “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? And why I’m proud to stand here?”
When Irving was asked if he had any antisemitic beliefs, he said he respected all walks of life.
“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from,” Irving said when he was asked to answer the question with a “yes” or “no.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, chastised Irving for his response.
“The answer to the question — ‘Do you have any antisemitic beliefs’ is always ‘NO’ without equivocation,” Greenblatt said in a post on Twitter. “We took @KyrieIrving at his word when he said he took responsibility, but today he did not make good on that promise. Kyrie clearly has a lot of work to do.”
The N.B.A. has penalized players for hate speech. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards was fined $40,000 in September for using homophobic language in a video he posted on social media.
In March 2021, the league fined Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat $50,000 and suspended him for one week because he used an antisemitic slur while playing video games on a livestream. Miami also suspended him for two days while the N.B.A. investigated. The Heat then quickly traded Leonard to Oklahoma City, which released him about a week later. No team has signed him since then.
The N.B.A. has not responded to questions about whether Irving will face discipline.