MEMPHIS — As vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said the players union is not comfortable with the conditions placed by the Brooklyn Nets on Kyrie Irving’s return from his suspension.
According to Brown, Irving will meet with NBA commissioner Adam Silver Tuesday to discuss the aftermath of Irving’s controversial posting of a link to a movie with antisemitic references and his refusal to apologize or say he is not antisemitic in multiple interviews.
The Nets suspended the former Celtics guard for a minimum of five games before Irving finally posted an apology Thursday night on his Instagram page.
The Nets set six guidelines Irving must meet before he can return to the club: a condemnation of the movie; a meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai; a meeting with Jewish leaders and members of the Anti-Defamation League; sensitivity training; antisemitic training; and a $500,000 donation to anti-hate causes.
Brown told the Globe Monday morning that the NBPA believes those conditions are too stringent, especially when there is no guideline that addresses social media posts in the collective bargaining agreement. He said the NBPA is expected to appeal.
“I don’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic,” Brown said. “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.”
Brown said Irving’s future and how the league approaches the issue of expression on social media could be clarified after Irving’s meeting with Silver.
“There is an interesting distinction between what somebody says verbally and what somebody posts as a link on a platform with no description behind it,” Brown said. “Some people will argue there’s no difference and some people will argue there is a difference. There’s no language in our CBA. There’s no rules against it. This is uncharted territory for everybody, and everybody is trying to figure out the difference between the two.”
The NBPA and NBA have been having discussions about more clarity with player expression and empowerment since the Irving issue. It’s one of the first major topics NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio has addressed in her brief tenure. The NBPA released a statement last week condemning hate speech but did not mention Irving’s name. The NBA released a similar statement, also without a reference to Irving.
“It’s definitely a conversation that’s going on,” Brown said. “I told people that are participating in this ongoing discussion that everybody is watching. I think there’s a big meeting on Tuesday amongst Adam, Kyrie, and whomever they decided to be there.
“I’ve been talking to Kyrie, I’ve talked to Adam, I talked to Tamika, I’ve talked to pretty much everybody about this situation.
“But I’m expecting the NBPA to appeal the suspension from Brooklyn. The terms, etc., that went into his return. The terms for his return, they seem like a lot, and a lot of the players expressed discomfort with the terms.”
Irving will be out for at least three more games, and it is uncertain if he is willing to meet the Nets’ requirements for his return.
The organization has been in upheaval with the removal of coach Steve Nash, the potential hiring of suspended Celtics coach Ime Udoka, and Irving’s post about the movie.
“He made a mistake. He posted something,” Brown said. “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.”