Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has claimed that “subtle racism” was behind an attack on him in the NBA playoffs over the weekend, when a fan of his former team, the Boston Celtics, threw a bottle at him from the stands.
The troubling incident occurred during a 141-126 win for Irving’s Nets at the TD Garden, in which he put up 39 points and helped his side to a 3-1 lead in their ongoing series.
As he walked up the tunnel when the game ended, shortly after Irving was seen stamping on the Celtics’ logo midcourt, a man threw a water bottle at the point guard.
“It’s unfortunate that sports has come to this kind of crossroads,” said Irving.
One idiot doesn’t represent an entire city or fan base. But, in the situations involving Westbrook, Young, and now Irving, that’s how it’s often viewed. We must be better. This can’t be tolerated. It’s especially ugly in the wake of fans returning to games.pic.twitter.com/h8wIHkDdpo
— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) May 31, 2021
“Where you are seeing old ways come up…underlying racism and treating people like they are in a human zoo.”
The Celtics fan, who donned a jersey bearing the name of black former NBA most valuable player Kevin Garnett, was arrested by police, according to an official statement issued by TD Garden.
“This incident is under review. We have zero tolerance for violations of our guest code of conduct, and the guest is subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden,” it said.
On Monday, WCB-TV reported that Cole Buckley, a 21-year-old from Braintree, Massachusetts, is to be arraigned tomorrow on a single count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after a witness identified him as the thrower of a Dasani water bottle which grazed Irving’s head.
According to multiple reports, a second Celtics fan was also booked for assault and battery of a police officer.
Ban his ass pic.twitter.com/Fqb8ttTioK
— travonne edwards (blk tray) (@Travonne) May 31, 2021
Despite accepting that some people might have struggled to maintain their grip on sanity in lockdown, Irving’s teammate, Kevin Durant, said fans have “got to grow up at some point”.
“I know being in the house for a-year-and-a-half has a lot of people on edge and a lot of people stressed out,” Durante conceded.
“But when you come to a game, you have to realize these men are human. We are not animals in a circus.
“Have some respect for the game. Have some respect for human beings. Have some respect for yourself.
“Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water at basketball players. Grow the f*ck up and enjoy the game. It’s bigger than you.”
Kevin Durant has some words for the Celtics "fan" who threw a water bottle at Kyrie Irving:
"Grow the f–k up and enjoy the game. It's bigger than you." pic.twitter.com/eKCc14Kdhn
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) May 31, 2021
A fellow Nets star, James Harden, called the behavior, which came alongside Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young being spat on and a fan in Philadelphia dumping popcorn on the Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook, “really unacceptable.”
“Fans should come in and boo or cheer, but throwing things and disrespectful language is ridiculous at this point,” he said.
“There is something that has to be enforced with the NBA. Somebody has to be made an example of.
“I don’t think just banning fans from the arena is good enough, because you see fans in different arenas continue to do it.”
UFC contender Julian Marquez joined the chorus, asking on Twitter: “What the f*ck is wrong with people?
Kyrie appeared to step on the Boston logo as he greeted his teammates at half court postgame.
— ESPN (@espn) May 31, 2021
“When did fans become so disrespectful to athletes, spitting, dumping popcorn, throwing water bottles?”
“I hope these people get banned from all sporting events for life.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart said the incident had been a case of “a knucklehead deciding to do something knuckleheadish” and pointed out that the apparent culprit was “taken care of very quickly”.
Smart also made the point that not all of his team’s fanbase should be tarred with the same brush.
“We’re glad that was taken care of,” he said. “Unfortunately, one bad seed doesn’t mean that the whole fruit is poisonous.”
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And while Irving claimed “subtle racism” could be behind some comments about “moms, or what you look like or calling you out on your name”, he too doesn’t wish to see the right to be passionate taken away from basketball fans.
“Anything could’ve happened with that water bottle being thrown at me,” he remarked. “But my brothers were surrounding me and I had people in the crowd. [I was] just trying to get home to my wife and my kids.
“That’s just what sports is: You mix drunk people out in the crowd that are cheering for the team.
“You have some fans that are there to watch the quality of the game. [But] Now we don’t know who is who.”
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