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Nike suspends relationship with Kyrie Irving; LeBron says Irving caused ‘harm to a lot of people’

David Gardner joins the show to discuss the latest regarding Kyrie Irving, and why the Nets' point guard seems to be motivated by a desire to refuse whatever he's being told to do.

Troubles keep piling up for Kyrie Irving.

Already suspended five games by the Nets for a Tweet promoting an antisemitic movie (then his refusal to apologize for it until after the suspension), Nike has suspended its working relationship with Irving, the company announced late on Friday. Here is the full statement from Nike:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Irving’s signature line is one of Nike’s better-selling basketball shoes, particularly some earlier models. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October of next year, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current incident. Now it seems highly unlikely there will ever be another new Kyrie shoe with Nike.

Nike’s biggest-selling shoe among active players belongs to Irving’s former teammate LeBron James, who spoke about Irving’s situation Friday night after the Lakers fell to the Jazz.

“Me, personally, I don’t condone any hate to any kinds, any race, to Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities. You guys know where I stand... I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people... He apologized. But he caused some harm, and I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t stand on the position to harm people when it comes to your voice or your platform or anything. So it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you’re in -- if you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t condone it.”

When Irving tried to find a trade out of Brooklyn last summer, the Lakers were reportedly the most interested suitor. However, among the issues, Irving was looking for a lengthy contract extension off his current deal — something the Nets refused to offer, leading to Irving’s desire to move on — and the Lakers were not willing to offer that kind of extension either, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN.

“I think it speaks to what happened last summer when Brooklyn was resistant to giving Kyrie Irving a long-term, guaranteed contract,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “So were the Lakers in a sign-and-trade scenario with Brooklyn...

“Kyrie Irving is back right where he was this summer, which is having to prove himself. Prove that he can be trusted. Prove that he’s be a good faith partner for an NBA team, whether it’s Brooklyn or elsewhere in the league.”

Irving does not have that trust in Brooklyn, although according to reports team owner Joe Tsai tried to give it to him. The Nets took heat in the media for what appeared to be a reaction to Irving’s Tweet promoting this antisemitic movie filled with disinformation (it denied the holocaust happened, for example). According to reporting from Ramona Shelburne and Wojnarowski at ESPN, Tsai thought this was a “teachable moment” with Irving and treated it that way, despite pressure from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Nets GM Sean Marks.

“Against the backdrop of calls for swift action, sources said Tsai had resisted and insisted on taking time to educate Irving on the horrors of antisemitism...

“As it turned out, the redemptive arc that Tsai had imagined for his star had devolved into what the owner felt was a repetitive exercise in Irving’s betrayal of good faith, sources said. For nearly a week, Tsai kept extending the clock to give Irving a chance to get this right for himself, the franchise and the Jewish community -- and Irving never returned a single of his text messages, sources said.”

The Nets eventually suspended Irving for five games, costing him nearly $1.3 million.

And the financial hits keep on coming for Irving with Nike suspending their relationship with him as well.