Nike announced last Friday that it had "suspended" its relationship with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. It turns out the relationship is likely done for good, Nike co-founder told CNBC in an interview that aired Thursday.
"I would doubt that we go back," co-founder Phil Knight said. "But I don't know for sure."
This news from Knight is the latest in the fallout of Irving tweeting a now-deleted link to a film reported to contain antisemitic rhetoric last month.
Nike also canceled its plans to release his next signature shoe after the Nets suspended Irving for failing to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs."
Irving was suspended for “no less than five games,” and he has already missed four. He has since apologized directly to the Jewish community as well. The Nets are reported to have more requirements for his reinstatement, including a verbal apology, sensitivity training and meeting with local Jewish leaders. NBA stars LeBron James and Jaylen Brown have said publicly that they find those requirements to be “excessive” and “too harsh,” respectively.
According to Knight, it was too little too late with Irving after both the Nets and evidently Nike attempted to reason with him privately. “He was dug in,” Knight said.
"Kyrie stepped over the line," he added. "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."
Nike’s relationship with Irving was rocky even before this latest controversy. In July of 2021, Irving had harsh criticism of the latest of his sneakers at the time, the Kyrie 8. In a response to a leaked photo of the sneaker, Irving called the shoes “trash” and said that Nike planned to release the kicks despite his disapproval.
“I have nothing to do with the design or marketing of the upcoming #Kyrie8, IMO these are trash!” Irving wrote in a since-deleted comment. “I have absolutely nothing to do with them! Nike plans to release it without my okay regardless of what I say, so I apologize in advance to all of my sneakerheads and true supporters of the #KAI11 brand.”
The final word on Nike’s relationship with Irving will come after a unique consideration process.
"We look at who we sign and how much we pay and we look not only at how good the athlete is but what his or her character are," Knight said. "It's not an exact science, but it's a process that we go through with a lot of intensity and with a lot of people sticking their hand in it."