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Nike Distances Itself From Kyrie Irving

Antisemitism ruins another sneaker deal.

Following Kyrie Irving’s suspension by the Brooklyn Nets due to posting links to an anti-Semitic film on social media, Nike has suspended its relationship with the star point guard.

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8,” Nike said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Irving was suspended for at least five games after posting a link to “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on Twitter. When given a chance to apologize, he didn’t.

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

Only after the Nets announced Irving’s suspension did the seven-time All-Star player take to Instagram to post an apology.

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“To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize,” Irving’s Instagram statement read in part. “I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the documentary.”

But it was too little, too late.

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during a break in the action during the first quarter of the game of the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center on November 1, 2022 in New York City.
Kyrie Irving Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Now, Nike isn’t releasing the Kyrie 8 sneaker, which was due to hit shelves on Tuesday. The partnership, worth $11 million annually, was very popular with consumers and players alike. Sportico reported that 50 NBA players wore his signature sneakers last season, second behind only Kobe Bryant, according to the Baller Shoes database. His shoes do brisk business on resale sites such as StockX and eBay as well.

Nike’s decision doesn’t come as a shock, however. The company wasn’t expected to renew its 2014 agreement with Irving after it expired at the end of this season, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, as reported by Sportico. Irving took to Instagram to publicly bash the new shoe in June last year, calling it “trash” and saying that he had nothing to do with the design or marketing, writing that “Nike plans to release it without my okay.”

Meanwhile, this controversy comes just weeks after Adidas terminated its contract with Ye, the artist also known as Kanye West, following anti-Semitic rhetoric and other unacceptable behavior. Similar to the beef between Irving and Nike, Adidas and Ye had their share of pre-existing drama. However, the Donda Academy founder was a bit more fruitful for the triple-stripe company, with the partnership making up nearly 7 percent of its annual revenue in 2021, according to Bloomberg.

Nike isn’t expecting such financial losses.

With a global revenue just shy of $47 billion for 2022, according to Statista, Irving’s sneaker deal made up a mere 0.2 percent of Nike’s annual global revenue.