NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving is finally doing what he couldn’t bring himself to do last month: Offer a genuine apology.
“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 said in a video interview with SNY’s Ian Begley on Saturday.
“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.”
The Nets star point guard has not appeared in a game since he was suspended by the team on Nov. 3 for a minimum of five games for his failure to properly apologize for posting a link to an antisemitic film on his social media accounts.
He has missed eight games for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but is expected to return to the court for Sunday’s matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies at Barclays Center.
The interview posted Saturday afternoon was the first time Irving has offered an apology outside of social media since the controversy began.
While the seven-time All-Star was 0 for 2 in his first few attempts at an apology, Irving defended his initial reaction to the backlash he received for posting a link to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” and receiving a suspension for his refusal to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs,” as the Nets said in their statement announcing his suspension.
“I felt like I was protecting my character,” Irving told SNY. “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.
“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.”
Irving reportedly had to meet six benchmarks before team owner Joe Tsai would let him return to action for new head coach Jacque Vaughn’s squad.
The first benchmark being, “Issue an apology for posting the movie, condemn the harmful and false content and make clear that he does not have anti-Jewish beliefs.”
The 30-year-old NBA star not only received backlash from the public and his teammates, but saw his partnership with Nike likely come to an end for his struggle to issue the genuine apology people were seeking.
However, this time, Irving emphatically stated that he does not support hate speech of any kind as the third apology appears to be the charm.
“I don’t stand for any hate speech,” Irving said in the SNY interview. “I don’t stand for racial prejudices or racial discrimination, and I for sure don’t stand for any religious hatred against any groups.
“I don’t want to bring any harm to any community, I only want to bring more light and peace to our world. In order to do that, you need to come through some moments that maybe [are] challenging and testing.”