Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving said he hopes his return to Boston for Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup doesn't include any subtle racism or belligerence from the crowd at TD Garden.
Speaking to reporters after the Nets won Game 2, 130-108, to take a 2-0 series lead, Irving said he's experienced racism at TD Garden in the past and isn't alone in the experience among NBA players.
The 29-year-old played for the Celtics from 2017 to 2019 before joining Brooklyn in free agency two years ago. He touched on previous stories of players experiencing racist comments at Boston during a media session in 2019.
Said Irving then:
"It matters to all of us because we have kids. We have families that we represent. We represent very different backgrounds. I think coming to Boston has been an eye-opening experience for me, just getting an experience to know Boston. I haven't really heard too much about stuff like that. But hearing about it, it's a little saddening, just to happen, not just in Boston, but just as an NBA player, hearing another NBA player going through something like that is just terrible. Or any athlete, hearing racial slurs. But racism still exists in our society. It happens every day. I don't want to limit it just to us athletes. A lot of people go through a lot of racial tension. So, it's a terrible thing in our society, racism in general."
Those comments came after the Celtics banned a fan for two years for shouting racial slurs at then-Golden State Warriors forward DeMarcus Cousins.
Irving's comments Tuesday followed statements from the NBA reaffirming its commitment to fighting systemic racism and social injustice on the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.
Game 3 between the Nets and Celtics is scheduled for Friday 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.