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LeBron James: Kyrie Irving ‘should be able to play’ but Adam Silver talks ‘process’

2022 US Open - Day 4 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Five days after he said Kyrie Irving had “caused some harm to a lot of people,” LeBron James tweeted Thursday that Irving “should be able to play” since he has apologized. But in an interview, around the same time Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in Washington, DC., that while he doesn’t believe Irving is antisemitic, the Nets star will need to go through a “process” before he returns to the court. He also argued that by his actions related to the antisemitic video he publicized, “the speech became his.”

James tweet, coming from such a prominent NBA player, seemed an endorsement of a players’ union appeal.

The Nets suspension is for five games (through the Los Angeles Clippers game in L.A. Saturday afternoon) but also includes a list of requirements for Irving to complete, including a $500,000 contribution to anti-hate efforts, antisemitic and sensitivity training and a more fulsome apology and condemnation of the video he promoted.

Silver spoke at Sports Business Journal’s Dealmakers Conference in Washington, his first public appearance amid the Irving firestorm, and in an interview with Sopan Deb who also tweeted out a partial transcript of Silver’s remarks.

“I personally, based on what he said directly, to me have no doubt that he’s not antisemitic but I think there’s a process that he’s going to now need to go through,” said Silver who met with Irving on Tuesday in a reference to the Nets requirements for his return.

Silver also argued that by promoting the video. which he described as “vile and full of hate speech,” and subsequent actions, “the speech became his.”

“Once he did that — and he did take the link down — but even beyond that, when he was asked about it, and in a way that was frankly dissatisfactory to virtually everyone, [he] was unable to explain how it got there, what it meant to him, to unequivocally denounce any form of antisemitism, the speech became his. I know some people disagree with that ... Maybe I’m wrong about that. I am learning through this process as well, but that’s where we now find ourselves.”

Silver also described the whole incident as producing “enormous damaging to him potentially, to the team and the league to the extend that people who feel we didn’t initially respond appropriately but this is where we are now. This is going to be the process before he returns to the floor...

“I feel that we got to the right outcome here in terms of his suspension,” Silver added. “And in retrospect, we may have been able to get there faster. I accept that criticism. But I felt it was important to understand the context in which it was posted to understand what discipline was appropriate, not in any way to excuse it but to understand what discipline was appropriate.”

As for the details of Nets suspension and requirements for Irving’s return, Silver said “It is being discussed at this time ... the Nets are looking to make this into a partnership between them and Kyrie as to what remediation is appropriate.”

Silver also said that he thinks Irving understands the need for remediation.

The commissioner called out Amazon Prime for not taking down the link to the video “From Hebrews to Negroes,” which Silver described as “frankly vile and full of hate speech.”

“I think Amazon has to make decisions as well,” Silver said. He added, “My first instinct wasn’t that something, to me, that is so frankly vile and full of hate speech would be contained within Amazon Prime.”

Silver’s characterization of the meeting contrasts with what Shams Charania reported, that the two had “a productive and understanding visit, paving the way for the Nets and their suspended star to work through his steps on a potential path forward.”

The tweet from James would seem to bolster the prospect of an appeal by the NBPA. Already several members of the union board, including Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams, have discussed the possibility of an appeal. Irving is a vice president of the NBPA and executive board.

It also might suggest that Irving would welcome Irving in Los Angeles where the Lakers are off to a disastrous start at 2-9. The Nets and Lakers play Sunday night in Los Angeles.

On November 5, James had this to say about Irving...

“I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people,” James said. “He has since, over the last – today, or was it yesterday? – he apologized. But he caused some harm, and I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t stand on the position to harm people when it comes to your voice or your platform or anything. So, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you are in. If you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t condone it.”

James and Irving of course were teammates in Cleveland, getting to the NBA Finals three straight years, winning it all in 2016.