In an exclusive interview with SNY’s Ian Begley Saturday afternoon, Kyrie Irving said he wants to “apologize deeply” for any harm his publicizing of an antisemitic video last month caused. The promotion resulted in a suspension that has kept him off the court for eight games.
Irving is listed as “questionable” for Sunday’s game vs. the Grizzlies at Barclays Center.
The breadth and depth of his apology would seem to satisfy several of the Nets main requirements for him to return to play. Irving had apologized before but only on social media.
Here’s the full video.
“I 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 throughout the time that it’s 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.”
It wasn’t just the video that pushed the Nets into suspending him for a minimum of five games. It also his failure to apologize at two press conferences in the days after. In suspending him, the Nets cited Irving’s failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.” The team called that failure “disturbing” and declared Irving “unfit” to be associated with the club. Not long after, Nike which whom had a decade long relationship announced it had severed relations with him and were dropping his latest signature shoe, the Kyrie 8, from its catalogue.
Irving explained to Begley his rationale at the time. He said he reacted emotionally to being labeled antisemitic. He noted his upbringing in West Orange, N.J., which he described as “a melting pot for a lot of different religious backgrounds, races and cultures.”
“I felt like I was protecting my character and I reacted out of just pure defense and just hurt that I could be labeled, or I thought that I was being labeled as antisemitic or anti-Jewish, and I’ve felt like that was just so disrespectful to ask me whether or not I was antisemitic or not,” he explained to SNY.
“Now to the outside world, that may have been seen as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Which rightfully so, it should’ve been, ‘No, I’m not antisemitic. No, I’m not anti-Jewish.’ I’m a person who believes we should all have equal opportunities and that we should all shower each other with love, and that should be at the forefront.
“But it wasn’t in that initial conversation, and I take my accountability and I want to apologize for that, because it came off the wrong way completely. What I was really getting at was, ‘How can I be antisemitic, if I know where I come from?’ That statement itself was just referring back to my childhood and all the relatives and friends that I have made and that I will continue to get to know on a deeper level. They’re Jewish – some of them are Jewish, some of them are not Jewish. I felt like that didn’t matter, and because I felt like that didn’t matter in the moment, it came off the wrong way.”
Irving also spoke to Begley about his meetings, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday and Nets co-owners, Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, another requirement of his return.
“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,” Irving said.
Importantly , Irving condemned antisemitic themes in the video he promoted. He again characterized his decision to publicize the video as part of his normal research.
“I wanted to share the link with all those that were also on the same journey and search for their heritage as I am on. The unfortunate aspect in that three-hour documentary is the antisemitic remarks in terms of generalizing Jewish people. I believe that was unfair. That wasn’t the aspect of the post that I wanted the focus to be on,” Irving said.
In his accompanying news story on the interview, Begly spoke about on theme that Irving returned to several times, how he wants a role in bridging communities.
“The reality is that our actions as human beings and my actions, are going to have to speak louder (than words) because there is a level of hurt and pain that a lot of communities feel for not being recognized, for a lot of their history and a lot of their cultural achievements and accomplishments,” he told Begley. “Because of that, there is a pride that they feel, that I feel, that it should be represented the right way and there shouldn’t be a fear or a thought or a second thought with this. It’s just standing up for the right things. Making sure that you’re standing up with everyone, but specifically in this case, this is the Jewish community that we’re recognizing.”
Irving also said he needed to speak to his younger fans.
“That was probably the most painful experience of all this,” he said. “….Specifically when they look to me for peace and love and to see me in this type of light, painted as a person who is going against another community or going against some people or assuming or putting out that I have hate in my heart. It just wasn’t easy to see or deal with.”
On Sunday morning, Irving tweeted put his support to those who stuck with him...
To All of you that are standing next to me on this Journey I want to say thank you, I love you, and I honor your fearlessness and bravery. You motivate me more than you know. Now, Let’s build and celebrate one another— Hélà (@KyrieIrving) November 20, 2022
We should know more about his availability by 5:30 p.m. ET when Jacque Vaughn meets with the media.