NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes that suspended Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is not antisemitic following a meeting between the two earlier in the week, the commissioner told the New York Times.
Silver, who is Jewish, told the Times that the two had “a direct and candid conversation” at the league’s headquarters in New York.
“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 said.
In a follow-up call with the newspaper, Silver added, “Whether or not he is antisemitic is not relevant to the damage caused by the posting of hateful content.”
The Nets suspended Irving last week after he doubled down on his decision to share an Amazon link to an antisemitic documentary to his millions of social media followers. The 30-year-old NBA star apologized on his Instagram account after his suspension was announced.
While the NBA did not hand down its own suspension to Irving, Silver said the punishment “got to the right outcome,” acknowledging the criticism the league faced for not suspending Irving sooner.
“And in retrospect, we may have been able to get there faster,” Silver said. “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 told the Times he has watched the film and concluded that it “was indeed hate speech.”
The NBA commissioner made his first public appearance since the controversy at a conference in Washington, DC, on Thursday and addressed the situation, the Times reported. Silver told the audience that Amazon bore some of the responsibility for having the film on its platform.
CNN has reached out to Amazon for comment but did not immediately hear back.
NBA, Nets in talks about when Irving returns
In response to the controversy, the Nets had suspended Irving for a minimum of five games. He has missed four games so far, making him eligible to play against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Silver said the Nets along with the league will consult to decide when Irving can return from suspension.
In addition to the suspension, Irving is required to complete other steps to return to the court.
Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said previously that Irving would need to pass “some remedial steps and measures” for the star to rejoin the team.
Marks said in part, “(Steps) have been put in place for him to obviously seek some counseling … from dealing with some anti-hate and some Jewish leaders within our community. He’s going to have to sit down with them, he’s going to have to sit down with the organization after this, and we’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”
Further, the Nets reportedly outlined “six-action items” he must complete in order to return to the team, according to the Athletic, citing unnamed league sources.
The six steps are: Irving must apologize and condemn the film he promoted, make a $500,000 donation to anti-hate causes, complete sensitivity training, as well as anti-Semitism training, meet with the ADL and Jewish leaders and meet with team owner Joe Tsai “to demonstrate an understanding of the situation.”
Irving has run into controversy in recent years that has affected his playing time. Last season, Irving did not play in many of Brooklyn’s home games because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19, which was a hindrance to playing in indoor arenas due to a New York City workplace vaccine mandate. The rule was later lifted and he returned to Barclays Center in March.
CNN’s Ben Morse, Homero De la Fuente and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.