Danny Ainge: ‘Never Heard’ About Racism at TD Garden, Celtics Take It Seriously

Blake SchusterContributor IMay 27, 2021

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17: General Manager Danny Ainge and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics talk before the game against the Utah Jazz on November 17, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge responded to Kyrie Irving's concerns over racism at TD Garden by telling the Toucher and Rich show he's never heard a player bring that up to him in 26 years with the team.

"I think that we take those kind of things seriously," Ainge said. "I never heard any of that, from any player that I’ve ever played with in my 26 years in Boston. I never heard that before from Kyrie and I talked to him quite a bit."

Following the Brooklyn Nets' victory in Game 2 against the Celtics, Irving, a former Boston guard, said he hopes fans stay respectful during Games 3 and 4:

Brian Lewis @NYPost_Lewis

Kyrie Irving on going back to Boston for Games 3 and 4: “Hopefully we can keep it basketball, no belligerence, subtle racism, people yelling sh-t from the crowd.” If it happens? “It is what it is.” #Nets #Celtics #NBA

While Ainge may not have heard from players about racism in Boston, the Celtics banned a fan from TD Garden for two years in 2019 after he shouted a racial epithet at then-Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins. 

That followed other high-profile incidents of players experiencing racism in Boston, which Marc Spears chronicled for The Undefeated in February 2020. 

Current Celtics star Marcus Smart was one of the players who talked to Spears for the piece and backed up Irving this week by sharing his experiences with racism at TD Garden.  

"Yeah, I've heard it," Smart told reporters hours after Ainge's comments. "I've heard a couple of things. It's hard to hear that and then have them support us as players. It's kind of sad and sickening."

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Marcus Smart referenced some of the things that have been seen around the NBA in the last couple of days as things that shouldn't be happening with fans and players. https://t.co/cVjE9OY0b1

The NBA is already dealing with a rash of unruly fans this postseason as more and more stadiums increase their capacity during the pandemic. Both the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks banned fans following incidents caught on camera. 

In Philadelphia, a fan had his season tickets revoked after he dumped popcorn on Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook as the guard left the court with an injury. The Knicks, meanwhile, banned a fan for spitting on Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young. 

NBA Communications @NBAPR

The NBA issued the following statement today: pic.twitter.com/AVR9zXrkm9

Irving makes his postseason return to Boston at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC this Friday.