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Brooklyn Nets suspend Kyrie Irving for failing to 'disavow antisemitism'

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(NEW YORK) — Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been suspended without pay for at least five games after promoting a film that contains “deeply disturbing antisemitic hate,” the team announced Thursday.

“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,” the Nets said in a statement. “This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.”

The decision comes a week after Irving tweeted a link to the 2018 movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on Amazon Prime Video. The synopsis states that the film, based on a 2015 book of the same name, “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel.” Several Jewish rights organizations, including the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League, have denounced the film as antisemitic.

The Nets said it has spent the last several days working with 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.”

Speaking with reporters earlier Thursday, Irving, who has since deleted his original tweet, said he takes responsibility for posting about the film.

“I didn’t mean to cause any harm,” Irving said. “I’m not the one that made the documentary.”

When asked whether he had any antisemitic beliefs, Irving responded, “I don’t know how the label becomes justified because you guys ask me the same questions over and over again. But this is not going to turn into a spin-around cycle — questions upon questions.”

He continued, “I told you guys how I felt. I respect all walks of life and embrace all walks of life. That’s where I sit.”

When pressed to answer yes or no to that question, he said, “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”

In announcing his suspension, the Nets said 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.”

“Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets,” the statement continued. “We have decided that Kyrie will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct and the suspension period served is no less than five games.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, also pushed back against Irving’s latest comments.

“The answer to the question ‘Do you have any antisemitic beliefs” is always ‘NO’ without equivocation,” Greenblatt said 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.”

Earlier Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that he was disappointed that Irving “has not offered an unqualified apology and more specifically denounced the vile and harmful content contained in the film he chose to publicize.”

Irving has maintained that he never meant to hurt anyone. On Wednesday, he and the Nets announced that each of them will donate $500,000 to the Anti-Defamation League.

“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” Irving said in a statement announcing his donation. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility. I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles. I am a human being learning from all walks of life and I intend to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. So from my family and I, we meant no harm to any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light.”

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