Brooklyn – The Brooklyn Nets suspended star guard Kyrie Irving on Thursday for at least five NBA matches, saying that despite holding a second news conference to address a controversial documentary he had still refused to disavow anti-Semitism.
Irving faced heavy criticism since posting a link to the 2018 film on Twitter last week and initially defended doing so during a contentious post-match news conference over the weekend.
The seven-time All Star has since deleted the Twitter post and in a news conference earlier on Thursday said he meant no harm.
Irving took “responsibility” for posting the link, but he did not specifically denounce the film or its message, which civil rights activists have called anti-Semitic.
“We were dismayed, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no anti-Semitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film,” the Nets said in a statement announcing his suspension.
The suspension comes at a fraught moment for Jews in the United States, as the FBI warned on Thursday there was a credible threat to synagogues in New Jersey, a state that lies a little across the harbour from the New York City borough of Brooklyn, one of the most Jewish places in the world.
The controversy follows another generated by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was suspended by social media platforms last month for posts that online users condemned as anti-Semitic.
The team said Irving will be suspended until he undergoes a series of unspecified “remedial measures”, but no less than five matches.
The next match for the Nets is late Friday on the road against the Washington Wizards.
If he serves a five-match suspension, Irving will be available to play November 13 on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Irving issued a joint statement with the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday, saying he opposed all forms of hatred.
He and the Nets said they will each donate U.S. $500 000 toward organisations that work to eradicate hate.
The NBA and union representing its players have also issued statements condemning hate speech. Neither the players union nor Irving’s agent immediately responded to request for comment on Thursday.
“Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive anti-Semitic material,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement on Thursday.
Irving’s social media posts are not the first time that he has courted controversy in the NBA.
He played in only 29 of the 82 regular season matches for the Nets last season after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite a mandate by the city of New York.
While not specifically mentioning the issues with Irving, the Nets parted ways with head coach Steve Nash on Tuesday after a disappointing start to their season.