Kyrie Irving apologizes 'deeply' for post: 'I'm not anti-semitic'

NEW YORK (AFP) — Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving said Saturday, Nov. 19, he wants to "apologize deeply" for social media links to a film with anti-semitic ideas, the NBA guard declaring, "I'm not anti-semitic."

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving (AFP)

In an exclusive interview with SportsNet New York (SNY) released Saturday, Irving made his most direct public comments regarding the posts he made linking to the 2018 film "Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America" and the uproar they caused.

"I just really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community, putting some type of threat, or assumed threat, on the Jewish community," Irving told SNY.

"I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions for the time that it has been since the post was first put up.

"I've had a lot of time to think, but my focus initially, if I could do it over, would be to heal and repair a lot of my close relationships with my Jewish relatives, brothers and sisters."

His lack of an apology earlier this month when speaking with reporters prompted the Nets to impose a minimum five-game suspension upon Irving until he took several steps to apologize and make amends for the harmful impact of his actions -- a ban that has lasted for eight games.

Apparel giant Nike also "suspended" its relationship with the NBA star, cancelling the release of the Kyrie 8 shoe expected in November.

Irving said he felt disrespected in the moment by even the question he might be anti-semitic and reacted defensively.

"I know I could have handled that better," Irving said. "I did not mean to send any hurt or threats or impact or harm to the Jewish community.

"I should have just answered the questions and just moved on.

"To the outside world, it may have been seen as a simple yes or no, which rightfully so it should have been, no I'm not anti-semitic.

"But it wasn't (clear) in that initial conversation. I take my accountability and I want to apologize for that. Please. It came off the wrong way."

After the release of his interview, Irving was listed as questionable for the Nets' game against Memphis on Sunday.

"I'm not anti-semitic. I never have been," Irving told SNY. "I don't have hate in my heart for the Jewish people or anyone that identifies as a Jew. I'm not anti-Jewish or any of that.

"I think the difficult aspect is just processing all this, understanding the power of my voice, the influence I have."

'Moving' & 'impactful'

The Nets, who have gone 5-3 without Irving, insisted Irving have conversations with the Jewish community to better understand the impact of his posts, talks he called "moving" and "impactful".

"It was a learning journey to be honest with you," Irving said. "It was a lot of hurt that needed to be healed, a lot of conversations that needed to be had. And a lot of reflection.

"And I got a chance to do that with some great people from the Jewish community, from the Black community, from the white community -- I've had so many conversations with all of our races and cultures and religious groups of people.

"I'm a man who stands for peace. I don't condone any hate speech or any prejudice and I don't want to be in a position where I'm being misunderstood on where I stand."

Irving declined to make public the conversation details but said they "made me become more aware of the repair that needed to be done, the healing that needs to be done still.

"It hasn't been easy. Some of it has been painful... It has given me a greater perspective."

Irving said his intent was to share information about what he called his search for details about his heritage, saying he should have better explained that's what he wanted to call attention to in the controversial film.

"Unfortunately in that process I hurt some people and I'm sorry for that," Irving said. "I meant no harm. I didn't want to be put against any community."