National Basketball Players Association Vice President Jaylen Brown called the nature of the eight-game suspension the Nets handed Kyrie Irving in November “unjust,” and said it violated the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.”
“That’s my job as vice president of the union,” Brown said in an interview with The Ringer’s Logan Murdock. “The union is supposed to be an entity to protect the players, especially their rights and their freedom of speech. I feel like what the Brooklyn Nets did — I still feel the same way — it was inappropriate. I think it was like a public ransom note almost, in a sense, where he had a list of demands he had to do to return to the game. It was a violation of our CBA. It’s a violation of our agreement and kind of got looked over like it was nothing.”
The Nets suspended Irving a total of eight games for “failure to disavow antisemitism” after the star guard posted a link to a film widely considered antisemitic on both his Instagram and Twitter feeds in late October. The suspension came after Irving opted not to offer an apology for posting the film on two separate occasions — most notably explaining “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from” — when pressed by reporters.
Shortly after the suspension came down, however, both The Athletic and ESPN reported Irving had to satisfy six benchmarks to return to the court after the organization deemed the star guard “unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Those benchmarks included a public apology, a $500,000 donation to anti-hate causes, sensitivity and antisemitic/anti-hate training, meeting with the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish leaders in Brooklyn, and meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai.
Brown said he doesn’t agree with the content of the film Irving shared. The two have history dating back to their time as teammates on the Celtics after Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017.
“Kyrie is one of those people who isn’t afraid of being wrong,” Brown said. “He isn’t afraid of being embarrassed. He’s not afraid of big moments either, doing great things. He’s one of those people that’s special. We see him at the top of the world, and we see him make some mistakes as well. But I appreciate the fact that the fear factor for him, even though he might have been afraid, didn’t stop him from doing or saying what he felt was right, for what he felt he needed to do. And that doesn’t exist in 99 percent of people. So, people can say what they want about Kyrie Irving, but he’s definitely my friend.”
Irving told The Ringer Brown was one of few people who stood by his side when he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
“He was one of the main ones that really stood beside me and was 10 toes with me and just telling me like, ‘You know, it’s going to be all right. There’s a peace of mind at the end of the road, but I want to let you know that you’re not alone in this,’ ” Irving said.
Irving is no longer with the Nets after forcing a trade to the Dallas Mavericks two days ahead of the NBA trade deadline, a move that blindsided the organization and slammed their championship window shut, forcing the team to trade Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns shortly after.
It remains unclear if the NBPA plans to take any action in the aftermath of Irving’s suspension and departure from Brooklyn, but one thing’s for sure: Brown isn’t done talking about it.