Marcus Smart Says It's 'Sad and Sickening' to Hear Celtics Fans Make Racist Comments

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 27, 2021

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 22:  Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the Brooklyn Nets in Game One of the First Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center at Barclays Center on May 22, 2021 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
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Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart told reporters Thursday he has heard the team's fans make racist remarks, echoing comments made by former Celtics guard Kyrie Irving.

"I've heard a couple of things," Smart said. "It's hard to hear that and then have them support us as players. It's kind of sad and sickening."

Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are heading to Boston for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Friday. In the buildup to the matchup, the seven-time All-Star alluded to the treatment opposing players can receive based on his experiences.

"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. "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."

Kendrick Perkins spent eight seasons with the Celtics and made return trips to TD Garden with opposing teams. Speaking on NBC Sports Boston, Perkins said things are "always extra" with Irving and that his time in Boston differed from that of Irving.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge struck a similar tone.

"I think that we take those kinds of things seriously," Ainge said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich. "I never heard any of that from any player in my 26 years in Boston. I never heard that from Kyrie, and I talked to him quite a bit. I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, we’re just playing basketball."

However, this isn't the first time Smart has opened up about racism he has experienced first hand in Boston.

Writing for The Players' Tribune in October 2020, the 27-year-old recounted driving away from TD Garden after a game and telling a woman to hurry through a crosswalk after the light had changed. The woman, who was wearing a Celtics jersey, responded by calling him the N-word.

"And in an instant, just like that, I was made to feel less than human," Smart wrote. "I wasn’t a person to this woman. I was a form of entertainment. Nothing more. And, believe me, it took every ounce of restraint in my body not to curse her out."

The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears interviewed multiple current and former Celtics players to examine the wider racial dynamic in Boston. 

Avery Bradley, who spent seven years with the franchise, told Spears that members of his family and friends "experienced a lot of racism in Boston." However, Bradley also said he "loved the city" and called the Celtics "one of the best franchises I’ve ever played for."

Jaylen Brown also told Spears he had heard Boston "was historically racist" after the Celtics selected him third overall in the 2016 draft. Like Bradley, he spoke highly of the city and said it "has really grown on me."