Nets clear Kyrie Irving to play after star issues apology

Nets Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving
AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File

Kyrie Irving stood in the press conference room inside the Nets training facility and apologized for his actions, which included sharing a film that contained antisemitic tropes and set off weeks of chaos around the organization that eventually saw Irving be suspended. The apology ahead of Sunday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies ended Irving’s ban and allowed him to play for the first time since he suited up on Nov. 1 against the Chicago Bulls.

Irving expressed remorse for the situation during the nearly 14-minute press conference and said that he should have handled things differently. 

“I just want to offer my deep apologies to all those who were impacted over these last few weeks,” Irving said. “All races and cultures, I feel like we all feel the impact and I don’t stand for anything close to hate speech or antisemitism or anything that is anti-going against the human race. … I feel like it was necessary for me to stand in this place and take accountability for my actions because there was a way I should have handled all of this.

“As I look back and reflect on when I had the opportunity to offer my deep regrets to anyone that felt threatened or felt hurt over what I posted. That wasn’t my intent at all, I meant no harm to any person or any group of people.”

The Nets lifted their suspension of Irving an hour after he spoke to reporters and in a statement the team they were “pleased” with the way Irving has been handling things. 

“Kyrie took ownership of his journey and had conversations with several members of the Jewish community. We are pleased that he is going about the process in a meaningful way,” the statement read. 

NBA Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio and Irving’s agent Shetellia Riley Irving, who is also his stepmother were both on hand as the point guard addressed local reporters for the first time since Nov. 3. Irving reiterated his point of sharing the film had not been to spread hate, but came amid his continued pursuit of understanding his heritage. 

When asked if he agreed with the film’s overall premise, Irving gave a lengthy explanation in response. 

Nets Kyrie Irving
Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving speaks before the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in New York.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“That was the intent when I was watching the movie, was to have a deeper understanding of my family heritage and where I come from,” Irving said. “And when I said I meant no harm, I meant that. To learn about the lost tribes of Israel, to learn about black history in a way where it’s not degrading anyone else’s history is important to me. And I want to stand on that truth of acknowledging the fact that I’m proud to know where I come from, and I’m still figuring it out as a 30-year-old man.”

The chaos led Irving to ultimately be handed a minimum five-game suspension by the team after he failed to unequivocally denounce antisemitism during a post-practice media session on Nov. 3. It followed a press conference the weekend prior in which Irving became defensive over his right to share what he wanted and got into a heated exchange with a reporter. 

The events were the final straw for the Nets and eventually forced them to take action. 

In his open remarks, Irving mentioned how he has grown a greater understanding of the power and influence he has and that he wants to be responsible for it. “In order to do that you have to admit you’re wrong in instances when you hurt people and it impacts them,” he said. 

Irving told reporters he had been meeting with different leaders from the Jewish community who have helped him gain a better understanding of the hurt that his actions. “I should have clarified that I am not antisemitic and I am not anti-anything when it comes to the way I live my life,” Irving said. 

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The apology was part of a list of reported requirements that the Nets required Irving to complete before he could be reinstated by the team. The Athletic was first to report the requirements, which Irving expressed disappointment that it had gone public. 

“I think it was inappropriate the way it was released and the way that it somehow pinned me in the corner as if I was guilty of something and as if I was the antisemitic person. This label that was placed on me I felt.