LeBron James says Kyrie Irving should be able to play after apology

Less than a week removed from denouncing Kyrie Irving’s actions – sharing antisemitic material and then refusing to categorically reject it – LeBron James said on social media he believes that Irving should return to play.

Irving is serving a suspension of at least five games, but it could be longer: Multiple outlets have reported that the 30-year-old has a six-step path to returning to play for the Brooklyn Nets after promoting a film with antisemitic content. While Irving apologized for his actions on Instagram roughly a week after first sharing the film in a tweet, the Nets want him to apologize publicly in person, undergo sensitivity training and antisemitic training, donate $500,000 to anti-hate causes and meet with Jewish leaders.

James tweeted Thursday morning that he believes these conditions are “excessive.” While he was one of the first (and one of few) NBA players to publicly come out against Irving’s actions in a press conference on Friday night – saying “I don’t condone it” – James said he wanted a different path forward for Irving in his latest sentiments.

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

Irving, however, took a winding route to issuing any kind of apology in the first place before the Nets and NBA finally took a hard stand.

Irving twice talked to reporters after sharing an Amazon link to the film, which has since seen a surge of popularity on the site. On the second of these two availabilities, he remained defiant about the antisemitic nature of the film and even seemed to cite material sourced within, saying, “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from.”

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Irving’s first apology came in his Instagram post following his suspension, as well as the suspension of his business relationship with Nike.

Irving’s behavior has polarized his standing in the NBA for years, from his relatively innocuous questioning whether the Earth is flat, to his stance against getting vaccinated for COVID-19 which kept him out of action for the majority of the 2021-22 season. While the Lakers have previously reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Irving, notably over the summer, many basketball observers have questioned if the latest turn of grasping at conspiracy theory ideology might be Irving’s last gasp in the NBA.

Irving has also been at the forefront of social justice causes, including supporting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against oil pipeline development and bringing a platform to the killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police. He’s a vice president for the NBPA, which The Boston Globe has reported may attempt to appeal his suspension. 

James insisted in his tweet: “He’s not the person that’s being portrayed of him.”

If Irving returns on the five-game timeline, he would be available to play against the Lakers on Nov. 13.

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