Nike has ended its eight-year commercial relationship with professional basketball star Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets player recently ensnared in controversy after he posted a link to an antisemitic film on social media.
Nike’s move comes one month after the athletic apparel giant suspended its relationship with Irving over a tweet he shared in October. In a one-line statement to CBS News on Monday, Nike said “Kyrie Irving is no longer a Nike athlete.”
Irving’s agent, Shetellia Riley Irving, told CBS MoneyWatch that “both Nike and Kyrie mutually decided to part ways.”
Irving’s shoe deal with Nike was one of the NBA’s most lucrative deals, generating about $11 million in earnings for him every year, Sportico reported. Irving signed his first Nike shoe deal in 2014 and was scheduled to release a new model, the Kyrie 8s, last month.
“We wish Nike nothing but the best is their future endeavors,” Riley Irving said in a statement Monday.
Irving posted a tweet Monday that suggested he’s relieved to be free from the Nike deal.
“Anyone who has even spent their hard earned money on anything I have ever released, I consider you family and we are forever connected,” he posted. “It’s time to show how powerful we are as a community.”
The controversy began Oct. 27 when Irving posted a link on Twitter to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” The synopsis on Amazon said the 2018 film “uncovers the true identity of the Children of Israel.” But the film mentions conspiracy theories about Jewish people, including false claims that Jews dominated the slave trade.
The following day, Nets owner Joe Tsai wrote on Twitter that he was “disappointed” that Irving appeared to support a film “based on a book full of antisemitic disinformation.” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also condemned Irving’s tweet.
The team suspended Irving for five games following the post. It marked the second straight season that the Nets have sent Irving away from the team. Last year, the Nets banished Irving when he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, making him ineligible to play home games.
After his latest suspension, Irving apologized for tweeting the documentary in a post on his Instagram account.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
Celebrities and Jewish organizations have called for Amazon and Barnes & Noble to remove the film from its platforms, but Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said last week the e-commerce company has no plans to withdraw it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- Kyrie Irving
Khristopher J. Brooks
Khristopher J. Brooks is a reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering business, consumer and financial stories that range from economic inequality and housing issues to bankruptcies and the business of sports.