Suspended Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving verbally apologized for his recent social media post for the first time on Saturday, saying he is "deeply" sorry to the Jewish community as a return to NBA ranks looms.
The Nets listed Irving, who has been out for eight games due to a team-imposed suspension for sharing a book and film with antisemitic tropes on social media, as "questionable" for Sunday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Irving said he has been on a "learning journey" as part of his suspension and reintegration into the Nets team.
The seven-time All-Star had previously apologized on social media after the suspension was imposed on him for the "harmful impact of his conduct". Prior to that, Irving had failed to apologize for sharing the post nor unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs on numerous occasions in the immediate days after that.
"I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions throughout the time that it's been since the post was first put up," Irving told SNY. "I've had a lot of time to think. But my focus, initially, if I could do it over, would be to heal and repair a lot of my close relationships with my Jewish relatives, brothers and sisters.
"I really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community. Putting some type of threat, or assumed threat, on the Jewish community."
The fall-out for Irving has been significant. Not only was he suspended by his team, Nike announced they had severed relations with him after a decade-long relationship and were dropping his latest signature shoe, the Kyrie 8, from its catalogue.
Irving has met with several representatives from key communities, working with the Nets, the NBA and the NBPA to move towards remediation and a resolution. His meetings included with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish.
"It was a learning journey to be honest with you," Irving said. "It was a lot of hurt that needed to be healed, a lot of conversations that needed to be had and a lot of reflection.
"I got a chance to do that with some great people from the Jewish community. From the Black community, from the white community - I've had so many conversations with all of our races and cultures and religious groups of people.
"Just try to find a better perspective on how we live a more harmonious life. I'm a man who stands for peace. I don't condone any hate speech or any prejudice and I don't want to be in a position where I'm being misunderstood on where I stand in terms of antisemitism or any hate for that matter for anybody in this world."
Irving called his initial reaction as self-defense when he failed to unequivocally declare he was not antisemitic during a press conference, when offered numerous opportunities, leading to the team-imposed ban, which had been indefinite without pay but for a minimum of five games.
"I felt like I was protecting my character and I reacted out of just pure defense and just hurt that I could be labeled, or I thought that I was being labeled as antisemitic or anti-Jewish, and I've felt like that was just so disrespectful to ask me whether or not I was antisemitic or not," Irving said.
"Now to the outside world, that may have been seen as a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Which rightfully so, it should've been, 'No, I'm not antisemitic. No, I'm not anti-Jewish.' I'm a person who believes we should all have equal opportunities and that we should all shower each other with love, and that should be at the forefront.
"But it wasn’t in that initial conversation, and I take my accountability and I want to apologize for that, because it came off the wrong way completely."