Before stepping foot in Boston for a playoff matchup with his former team, the Celtics, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving implicated that he would likely be greeted with racism when he plays in front of fans at TD Garden for the first time since his departure from the team now that the arena is permitted to host fans at full capacity following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Irving said in a press conference ahead of his return to Boston for game three of the first-round series:
I’m just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball, there’s no belligerence or any racism going on. Subtle racism and people yelling s— from the crowd.
Irving added that he and other players can attest to the racism he says comes from Celtics fans.
Celtics All-Star Jaylen Brown said in response to Irving's comments:
I know that every Celtics fan is not a racist. We have people from all walks of life, ethnicities, colors that are Celtics fans. So I think by painting every Celtics fans as a racist would be unfair.
The Celtics beat Irving and the Nets in game three. However, following Brooklyn's game four win, a fan launched a water bottle in Irving's direction as he was heading toward the locker room, which prompted Irving to insinuate that the fan's rationale was fueled by racism.
Irving said about the incident after the game:
It’s unfortunate that sports has come to a lot of this kind of crossroad where you’re seeing a lot of old ways come up. It’s been that way in history in terms of entertainment and performers and sports for a long period of time. It’s just underlying racism and treating people like they’re in a human zoo – throwing stuff at people, saying things. There’s a certain point where it gets to be too much.
The fan was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
Irving has continued to try and paint fans of the Celtics as racists knowing they had a deep hatred for him. However, their resentment is not due to his race but rather because of his actions and unfulfilled promises while in a Boston uniform.
While a Celtic, Irving was criticized for his ball-dominating style of play, which led fans and the media to attribute their underwhelming 2019 season to the All-Star guard, referring to him as selfish and a poor leader.
Earlier that season, Irving had promised fans that he would resign with the Celtics and made a verbal agreement with management to stay in Boston upon the expiration of his contract, which expired at season's end. However, he failed to uphold his promise to remain in Beantown.
He has previously shifted the blame for team struggles away from himself and onto younger stars wearing a Celtics uniform.
Irving's actions ahead of the 2021 NBA Playoffs were enough to fuel the hatred of Celtics fans. After claiming that they are all racists and disrespecting their team logo by stomping on it, it is no wonder the people of Boston no longer favor the Nets guard.
Former Celtics Glen Davis and Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Garnett took exception with Irving's latest form of disrespect toward the 17-time NBA champions.
Kevin Garnett did not like Kyrie Irving stomping on the Celtics logo. pic.twitter.com/R4pO9HSmUy— Jay King (@ByJayKing) May 31, 2021
Davis said in a comment on Instagram about Garnett's comments, echoing his former teammate's remarks.
Real bullshit . Like I said you step on lucky you step on everybody that played for that team . Keep the s— basketball before somebody get hurt in real life.