Adam Silver said he has “no doubt” that Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is not antisemitic after the two had what the NBA commissioner called “a direct and candid conversation” earlier this week at the league’s headquarters in New York.
Silver, who is Jewish, discussed Irving in an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, two weeks after the Nets guard made a controversial post that included an Amazon link to a film containing antisemitic ideas. The interview occurred after Silver spoke at the Sports Business Journal Dealmakers Conference in Washington, D.C.
“He’s someone I’ve known for a decade, and I’ve never heard an antisemitic word from him or, frankly, hate directed at any group,” Silver told the Times.
Silver added: “Whether or not he is antisemitic is not relevant to the damage caused by the posting of hateful content.”
Silver acknowledged to the Times that criticism the league and the Nets received for not disciplining Irving faster “may be fair.” Irving was suspended by the Nets on Nov. 3, one week after he posted his tweet, after he failed to formally apologize during a news conference earlier in the day. Irving issued an apology in an Instagram post later that night.
“I feel that we got to the right outcome here in terms of his suspension,” Silver told the Times. “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.”
Silver said the league wanted to do “a bit of work and research to understand” Irving’s post before deciding how to proceed. That included Silver himself watching the film, he said.
“Once we did that investigation, it was clear to me that this was indeed hate speech and we, together with the Brooklyn Nets, did respond,” Silver told the Times.
At the conference in Washington, Silver said that Amazon bore some responsibility for hosting the antisemitic film on its site.
“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.”
Irving has missed four games due to his suspension and could be eligible to return Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers, though it is unclear when the Nets will reinstate him.
Silver said the Nets will decide when Irving can return in consultation with the NBA. As part of Irving’s suspension, the team outlined a set of conditions needed for his reinstatement, including a public statement recognizing the film is antisemitic, an apology for supporting the film and the falsehoods within it, and training sessions on the dangers of hate speech, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.
New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, who serves as the president of the National Basketball Players Association, said the conditions are “asking for a lot” from Irving.
“It’s a lot to ask of someone who’s already said they’re sorry, who’s already showed empathy, who’s already given his money,” McCollum said. “He’s continuing to figure out ways to learn more and unite people against hate. But they are asking for a lot. So hopefully they’re able to find a happy medium there and get him back to play.”
ESPN’s Andrew Lopez contributed to this report.
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