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Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving addressed having a wattle bottle thrown at him at the end of his team’s 141-126 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
During his postgame press conference, Irving told reporters about the racist treatment he has received from NBA fans over the years:
Similar incidents have played out during the NBA playoffs as fans return to arenas in larger numbers.
A Philadelphia 76ers fan threw popcorn on Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook. A New York Knicks fan spat on Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young. And the family of Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant was targeted by Utah Jazz fans.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller the league will show “zero tolerance” toward fans who cross the line in an interaction with a player or those close to him.
“No one is going to get away with an act like that,” Silver said. “You’re going to be caught. You’re going to be banned from an arena. In some cases, there may be criminal prosecution depending if the conduct rises to that level of an assault or something that the police are going to take note of.”
Nets star James Harden questioned whether banning fans from arenas provides enough of a solution to the issue:
In the case of Irving, he spoke publicly about his desire to see Celtics fans act civilly ahead of his return to Boston.
“I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball; there’s no belligerence or racism going on—subtle racism,” he said ahead of Game 3. “People yelling s–t from the crowd, but even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control.”
The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears examined how current and former Black Celtics players were treated in Boston.
Avery Bradley was a member of the team for seven seasons and told Spears some of his family and friends “experienced a lot of racism in Boston.” Spears also recounted an instance in which former Celtics star Dee Brown was racially profiled near his home in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
In part addressing Irving’s comments, Celtics star Jaylen Brown spoke to those in Boston and said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, no question.”
“Incarceration rate is ridiculous, the wealth disparity is embarrassing, the inequality in education specifically in Boston public schools needs to be better,” he said. “There’s a lack of resources there, lack of opportunity. The tokenism here in Boston needs to be addressed as well.”
However, Brown also said he “[did] not like the manner it was brought up, centering around a playoff game.”