The Brooklyn Nets took a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday (May 25), and now, as the Eastern Conference series moves to Boston for Game 3 on Friday, Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving hopes he won’t experience “subtle racism” from fans of his former team.
"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," Irving said, according to ESPN. "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."
When asked whether racist comments had been made toward him at the TD Garden, Irving said he "was not the only one that can attest to this" before shrugging his hands.
"It is what it is," Irving added. "The whole world knows it."
Irving isn’t the only Black athlete who has spoken out about racism faced while playing in the Boston area. According to the Boston Globe, 11 time NBA champ Bill Russell, who played for the Boston Celtics, called the city “a flea market of racism.”
Irving played for the Boston Celtics from 2017 to 2019. He subsequently inked a free agency deal to play for the Brooklyn Nets and has since played at the TD Garden twice: once this preseason and once on Christmas of last year. Both appearances, however, the NBA did not allow fans in the arena due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Game 3, the Celtics will have 25 percent of their 19,580 capacity. For Sunday’s Game 4, it will go up to “near full capacity,” ESPN reports.
In Game 2, Irving had 15 points, six assists and six rebounds as Brooklyn easily defeated Boston 130-108.