Celtics

Jaylen Brown attacks Nike after co-founder announces it’ll likely cut ties with Kyrie Irving

“Since when did Nike care about ethics?”

Jaylen Brown defended Kyrie Irving on Thursday. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

When Nike co-founder Phil Knight revealed that the company would likely end its relationship with Nets guard Kyrie Irving, a former Celtics teammate of his appeared to come to his defense.

Jaylen Brown criticized Nike on Twitter not long after Knight made the statement.

“Since when did Nike care about ethics?” Brown tweeted.

Nike has been under fire for several years over its alleged use of sweatshops and forced labor in Asia to make its products. However, Brown, who has been a sneaker free agent since the start of the 2021-22 season, has worn Nike basketball sneakers during his games with the Celtics in recent years. After previously being signed to Adidas for the first five seasons of his career, Brown has worn the Nike-produced Kobe Bryant sneakers consistently through the start of the 2022-23 season.

Brown’s tweet came a few days after he told The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn that while he and the NBPA don’t “condone hate speech” and “anything of that nature,” he thinks that Irving’s five-game minimum suspension and the stipulations to return are too stringent.

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“I don’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic,” Brown told Washburn. “I don’t think people in our governing bodies think he’s antisemitic. He made a mistake. We understand from an outside perspective how important sensitivity is to not condone hate speech and not condone anything of that nature. It’s sensitivity to the dialect around that. We don’t want to stand up for somebody in order to not condemn hate speech, but I don’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic. And hopefully the NBA feels the same way.”

“He made a mistake. He posted something,” Brown added. “There was no distinction. Maybe we can move forward, but the terms in which he has to fulfill to return, I think not just speaking for me, speaking as a vice president from a lot of our players, we didn’t agree with the terms that was required for him to come back and we’re waiting for this Tuesday meeting to happen to see what comes of it. But we’ll go from there. That’s all I’ll say.”

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Irving received the suspension from the Nets on Nov. 3, a week after he posted a link to an antisemitic film on his Twitter page and failed to denounce antisemitism in the days after. Irving posted a formal apology for his actions on Instagram a few hours after the Nets suspended him. But a day later, Nike announced it was suspending its relationship with Irving.

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” Nike said in a statement. “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.”

Knight implied in an interview with CNBC on Thursday that the company would end its relationship with Irving.

“Kyrie stepped over the line,” he said. “It’s kind of that simple. He made some statements that we just can’t abide by and that’s why we ended the relationship. And I was fine with that.”

“I would doubt that we go back,” Knight added. “But I don’t know for sure.”

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Irving met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday. Silver, who is Jewish, told The New York Times that he doesn’t believe Irving is antisemitic following his meeting with him.

Irving and his family also met with Nets owner Joe Tsai on Thursday.

“We spent quality time to understand each other and it’s clear to me that Kyrie does not have any beliefs of hate towards Jewish people or any group,” Tsai tweeted.

“The Nets and Kyrie, together with the NBA and NBPA, are working constructively toward a process of forgiveness, healing and education.”

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