In the latest reverberation of the Kyrie Irving anti-Semitism controversy, Nike co-founder and biggest shareholder Phil Knight told CNBC that Irving’s longstanding relationship with the shoe company is likely over.
Nike suspended its relationship with Irving last Friday, citing his promotion of an anti-Semitic video. The suspension essentially ended the company’s long-term relationship with Irving since his shoe contract ended this year. Knight, who controls 17% of Nike shares, apparently ruled out the possibility of a comeback while chatting with CNBC’s Becky Quick.
“Kyrie crossed the line,” Knight said. “It’s kind of as simple as that. He made statements that we just can’t stand by and that’s why we ended the relationship. And I was okay with that.
Asked about a possible return, Knight said it was unlikely.
“I would doubt we would go back,” Knight said in the interview that aired Thursday morning. “But I am not sure.”
Knight also revealed that Nike, like the Nets, contacted Irving but their response was unsatisfactory. “Same situation. He was dug,” Knight said, comparing the situation to the Nets.
Irving has been with Nike since 2011 when he was drafted No. 1 from Duke. He’s had a signature shoe line since 2014, with his annual endorsement deal estimated at at least $11 million. according to ESPN. Until he was suspended by Nike and the launch of his signature Kyrie 8 shoe was scrapped, Irving was one of only five NBA players to have a signature shoe line with Nike.
Aside from various political controversies, Irving’s relationship with the Oregon-based company has also been troubled. In July 2021, Irving went wild on social media over the design of the Kyrie 8 edition of his shoe, telling fans they shouldn’t order the shoe. This controversy was eventually resolved.
“We look at who we sign and how much we pay and we look at not only how good the athlete is, but also what his character is,” Knight said. “It’s not an exact science, but it’s a process that we’re going through with a lot of intensity and with a lot of people getting their hands on it.”