LeBron James says Kyrie Irving should be allowed to return to court

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James offered a partial defense of former teammate Kyrie Irving on Thursday, saying he’s not the type of person he’s “being portrayed” amid the controversy surrounding Irving’s promotion of an antisemitic film.

“I told you guys that I don’t believe in sharing hurtful information. And I’ll continue to be that way, but Kyrie apologized and he should be able to play,” James wrote in a tweet. “That’s what I think. It’s that simple.”

James, a four-time league MVP, also suggested that Irving should be helped by others to learn more about antisemitic hate.

James and Irving, both former No. 1 overall draft selections by the Cleveland Cavaliers, spent three seasons as teammates in Cleveland, leading the team to win the NBA Finals in 2016.

“Help him learn- but he should be playing. What he’s asked to do to get back on the floor I think is excessive IMO,” James said, using an abbreviation for “in my opinion.” “He’s not the person that’s being portrayed of him.”

In a now-deleted post, Irving last week tweeted a link to “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” a 2018 film based on a 2015 book of the same name, both of which contain a number of antisemitic tropes.

Irving has been suspended for five games without pay by his team, the Brooklyn Nets, and he met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing controversy.

Silver, along with Nets owner Joe Tsai and basketball legend and analyst Charles Barkley, among others, have publicly criticized Irving for his actions.

Nike announced last week that it had suspended its relationship with Irving and canceled the release of his ninth signature shoe amid the controversy, saying in a statement that the company has no place for “hate speech” and “antisemitism.”

Irving, in a joint statement along with his team and civil rights organization the Anti-Defamation League last week initially said he has taken “full responsibility” for the “negative impact” surrounding the tweet, also sending $500,000 toward causes and organizations that fight to end hate and intolerance toward Jewish communities.

In a follow-up interview, however, he refused to give a direct answer when asked if he has antisemitic beliefs.

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