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Nike co-founder Phil Knight says Kyrie Irving ‘stepped over line’ and relationship likely done

Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

In the latest reverberation from the Kyrie Irving antisemitism controversy, Nike co-founder and biggest stockholder Phil Knight told CNBC that the long time relationship between Irving and footwear company is likely done.

Nike suspended its relationship with Irving last Friday, citing his promotion of an antisemitic video. The suspension essentially ended the company’s long-term relationship with Irving since his footwear contract ends this year. Knight who controls 17% of Nike stock seemingly removed the possibility of a return in talking with CNBC’s Becky Quick.

“Kyrie stepped over the line,” Knight said. “It’s kind of that simple. He made some statements that we just can’t abide by and that’s why we ended the relationship. And I was fine with that.”

Asked about a possible return, Knight said it was unlikely.

“I would doubt that we go back,” Knight said in the interview that aired Thursday morning. “But I don’t know for sure.”

Knight also revealed that Nike like the Nets had reached out to Irving but that his response was unsatisfactory. “Same situation. He was dug in,” Knight said, comparing the situation to the Nets.

Irving has been with Nike since 2011 when he was drafted No. 1 out of Duke. He has had a signature line of shoes since 2014, with his annual endorsement deal believed to be worth at least $11 million. according to ESPN. Until he was suspended by Nike and the launch of his Kyrie 8 signature shoe abandoned, Irving was one of only five NBA players to have a signature shoe line with Nike.

Jaylen Brown, who like Irving is a vice president of the players union and was his teammate on the Celtics, reacted this way to the Knight interview...

Putting aside various political controversies, the relationship between Irving and the Oregon-based company has also been troubled. In July of 2021, Irving lashed out on social media about the design of the Kyrie 8 edition of his shoe, telling fans that they shouldn’t order the shoe. That controversy ultimately got resolved.

“We look at who we sign and how much we pay and we look not only at how good the athlete is but what his or her character are,” Knight said. “It’s not an exact science, but it’s a process that we go through with a lot of intensity and with a lot of people sticking their hand in it.”