Nike has likely permanently ended its relationship with Kyrie Irving after the Brooklyn Nets guard endorsed a film with antisemitic views, the company’s co-founder Phil Knight told CNBC on Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:
- Knight said about Nike’s relationship with Irving: “I would doubt that we would go back, but I don’t know for sure.”
- The shoe company suspended its relationship with Irving last Friday and said it would no longer launch Irving’s Kyrie 8.
- Irving is working through steps to return from his suspension with the Nets, which is a minimum of five games.
Irving shared a link to the documentary film on multiple social media platforms on Oct. 27. The Nets initially condemned the posts in a statement.
Irving met with the media on Oct. 29 and Nov. 3 and failed to unequivocally apologize for posting the content and fully condemn the film. He also endorsed the “New World Order” views of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and questioned the backlash he received for sharing the link to the film.
In response, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association made multiple public comments admonishing hate speech, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver delivering a strong statement last Thursday that mentioned he planned to meet with the seven-time All-Star.
The Nets said in another statement when Irving was suspended that the organization “made repeated attempts to work with (him) 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. ”
Irving hasn’t played since Nov. 1.
On Friday, Nike announced it was suspending its relationship with Irving, effective immediately. The company said, in part: “At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of anti-Semitism. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
On Saturday, The Athletic reported that the team had informed Irving of a list of six steps he needed to take in order to return to the team, including meeting with Jewish community leaders in Brooklyn and completing sensitivity training created by the team.
Silver met Tuesday with Irving and had a productive and understanding visit as the guard works through his steps to return from suspension, sources with direct knowledge of the talks told The Athletic.
What they’re saying
During a television interview with CNBC, Knight shared his first public comments about the situation.
“Kyrie stepped over the line,” Knight said. “It’s kind of that simple, so he made some statements that we just can’t abide by and that’s why we ended the relationship. And yeah, I was fine with that.”
The Nets said they suspended Irving for “no less than five games” because Irving refused to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic views.”
“Same situation,” Knight said. “He was dug in.”
Knight also discussed Nike’s process of partnering with athletes.
“We look at who we sign and how much we pay, and we look at not only how good the athlete is, but how his or her character (is), so it’s not an exact science, but it’s a process that we go through with a lot of intensity, with a lot of people sticking their hand in it, and that’s one that goes all the way to the CEO because some of the numbers (athletes) are paid are pretty big,” he said.
What this means for Irving’s future endorsement deals
This seems to forecast the end of Irving’s relationship with Nike. The company suspended it last week but Knight indicated that it is likely over. Nike was Irving’s most significant endorsement deal and probably his most lucrative of him. It’s hard to see new ones on the horizon or in the immediate future, especially as Irving remains off the court due to his suspension of him by the Nets.
(Photo: Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)