Last Friday, Nike announced that it had “put on hold” its relationship with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. Turns out the relationship is probably forever, Nike co-founder told CNBC in Interview which aired on Thursday.
“I would doubt we’d be back,” co-founder Phil Knight said. “But I don’t know for sure.
The news from Knight is the latest in the aftermath of Irving tweeting a now-deleted link to a movie that was reported to contain anti-Semitic rhetoric last month.
Nike also canceled its plans for its next signature shoe after Hanging nets Irving for not “explicitly stating that he has no anti-Semitic beliefs”.
Irving was suspended for “at least five games” and has already missed four. He has since also apologized directly to the Jewish community. The Nets reportedly have additional demands for his reinstatement, including a verbal apology, sensitivity training, and a meeting with local Jewish leaders. NBA stars LeBron James and Jaylen Brown have publicly stated that they consider these requirements “excessive” and “too tough”, respectively.
According to Knight, it was too late with Irving after the Nets and apparently Nike tried to reason with him privately. “He was buried,” Knight said.
“Kyrie has crossed the line,” he added. “It is so simple. He made several statements that we simply cannot abide by, and so we ended the relationship. And that suited me.”
Nike’s relationship with Irving was rocky even before this latest controversy. In July 2021 Irving sharp criticism the last of his sneakers of the time, the Kyrie 8. In response to a leaked photo of the sneaker, Irving called the shoes “garbage” and said that Nike plans to release the sneaker despite his disapproval.
“I have nothing to do with the design or marketing of the upcoming #Kyrie8, IMHO, this is garbage!” Irving wrote in a deleted comment. “I have absolutely nothing to do with them! Nike is planning to release it without my consent, no matter what I say, so I apologize in advance to all sneaker fans and true supporters of the #KAI11 brand.”
The final decision on Nike’s relationship with Irving will be made following a unique review process.
“We look at who we sign and how much we pay, and we look not only at how good the athlete is, but also at what his or her character is,” Knight said. “It’s not an exact science, but it’s a process that we go through with great intensity and with a lot of people putting their hands into it.”