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Nike officially ends relationship with Kyrie Irving

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

A month after suspending its relationship with Kyrie Irving, Nike has officially ended its $11 million-a-year contract with the Nets star and long-time endorser.

Shams Charania was first with the news...

Shams also reported that Ja Morant is “in line to receive a new signature shoe at Nike in the near future,” essentially replacing Irving,

No word on whether other footwear companies are interested in signing Irving. However, Irving appeared to reference his free agent status in a tweet 10 minutes after the Shams tweet...

A photo of his Nike footwear worn during the Nets November 28 game vs. the Magic appeared to show a series of “X’s” scribbled over the Nike “swoosh” and the word, “liberation” written beneath it.

Later, Irving thanked those who have bought his shoes...

Irving’s agent, Shetellia Riley Irving, called the decision mutual.

“We have mutually decided to part ways and wish Nike the best in their future endeavors,” she told CNBC on Monday.

By Tuesday morning, all Kyrie brand sneakers were sharply discounted — up to 50% — on Nike’s website.

A month ago, Nike announced it had suspended the relationship following the outcry over his publicizing an antisemitic video that also led the Nets to suspend him for eight games. Irving has repeatedly apologized for the harm he caused.

On November 5, Nike suspended him and said it would not release his latest sneaker, the long-awaited Kyrie 8. The Kyrie 8 was originally scheduled to be released last month. Irving has been a Nike athlete since entering the league in 2011 and had been one of only five NBA players with signature shoes.

Here’s the statement on the suspension by the Oregon-based footwear designer and manufacturer from last month, explaining its decision:

At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.

Five days later, Nike co-founder Phil Knight told CNBC’s Sara Eisen he didn’t expect Irving back.

“I would doubt that we would go back, but I don’t know for sure,” Knight said.

There’s been no Nike statement as of yet on the end of the relationship but ties between Irving and Nike have been frayed for a while.

Back in May, Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported that Nike was pulling back from their commitment to his signature line of shoes, one of the brand’s most popular. The two ESPN reporters suggested that “uncertainties surrounding his NBA future” led to the decision. Irving had refused to get vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic. limiting him to 29 games last season.

As CNBC reported a month ago, Irving’s brand is among the top five best sellers for Nike, but sales are nowhere near those of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, etc. There’s been no reporting on whether either the vaccine mandate or antisemitic controversy had hurt Nike sales of the shoes. As recently as Sunday night, a lone Irving supporter held a “Boycott Nike” sign outside Barclays Center.

Irving’s contract with Nike was supposed to end this season. His relationship with Nike goes back to 2011, when he was drafted. His signature shoe deal began three years later.

In July of 2021, Irving lashed out on social media about the design of the Kyrie 8 edition of his shoe. That issue was ultimately settled but the relationship between Irving and Nike had soured.