Kyrie Irving Discusses 'Underlying Racism' After Celtics Fan Throws Bottle at Him

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 31, 2021

BOSTON, MA - MAY 30: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on against the Boston Celtics during Round 1, Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 30, 2021 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 2021 NBAE  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

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.

Irving was walking toward the locker room when a fan threw the bottle at him. According to ESPN's Tim Bontemps, authorities arrested the fan in question. TD Garden has also banned the fan for life.

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A fan appears to throw a water bottle at Kyrie as he heads into the locker room after the Nets-Celtics game. pic.twitter.com/SCGaWyStht

During his postgame press conference, Irving told reporters about the racist treatment he has received from NBA fans over the years:

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Kyrie Irving on getting a water bottle thrown at him after the game:<br><br>"People just feel very entitled out here... it's a reflection on us as a whole when you have fans acting like that." pic.twitter.com/jNo574q7oE

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Kyrie, continued:<br><br>"These actions are historically relative, when you think about where we've come as a sport. It used to happen back in the day, a lot of older players went through it." pic.twitter.com/PTnjdKEHzs

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"We keep saying, 'we're human, we're human,' but we don't treated like we have rights when we're out there and people feel entitled to do things like that" - Kyrie Irving pic.twitter.com/LbSRU6zkHB

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Kyrie Irving on the "subtle, underlying racism" he's experienced throughout his career:<br><br>"It's not necessarily about talent and gifts, it's more about moms or what you look like or they're calling you out on your name." pic.twitter.com/vQoTCqTJ4V

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:

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James Harden on the water bottle incident:<br><br>"It's really unacceptable... I don't think just banning fans from the arena is good enough... fans continue to do it so something has to be put in place." pic.twitter.com/k8UuX5vrHJ

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."