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Irving before returning to the Nets

For the first time since his suspension, controversial basketball star Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets has publicly apologized in an interview.

“I’m not an anti-Semite. I never was,” Irving said in an interview with the New York regional sports network SNY, “I have no hatred in my heart for the Jewish people or anyone who identifies as a Jew.” He wanted to “deeply apologize” for his social media post about a book and a film with anti-Semitic ideas.

The 30-year-old Irving had shared a link via Twitter to “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America”, which was criticized as anti-Semitic and which the US media also classified as racist and misogynist, homophobic and Islamophobic. As a result, Irving initially avoided a direct apology and was then suspended by the Nets for at least five games. “I sincerely apologize for all my actions in the time that has passed since my post was first published,” Irving said, “I’ve had a lot of time to think. I really want to focus on the pain I’ve caused.”

Irving has now missed eight games. For the game against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Nets have at least classified the seven-time All-Star as “questionable”. Irving’s return had come with a number of conditions attached.

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