Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving revealed this week that he hopes he can avoid racist remarks when he plays against his former team in Boston on Friday.
Irving, who faced backlash from Boston fans after he walked back on plans to re-sign with the Celtics in 2019 after two seasons with the team, said during a press conference on Tuesday night that while Friday’s match-up won’t be “my first time being an opponent in Boston,” he expressed fears of experiencing hostilities and offensive remarks from fans.
“I’m just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball,” he explained. “There’s no belligerence or racism going on, subtle racism, or people yelling shit 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,” he added.
When asked by a reporter if he had experienced racism and hostility while in Boston previously, Irving responded, "I’m not the only one that could attest to this, but it’s just, you know,” he said before pausing and letting out a laugh.
“It is what it is." he added, "The whole world knows it."
Irving has previously spoken out on racism NBA players have experienced while in Boston, saying in 2019 that he was saddened by racist slurs yelled at former Golden State Warriors player DeMarcus Cousins, which resulted in a fan being suspended for two years from the arena.
Irving at the time said, “When you hear something like that, especially people of color, I gravitate toward being on anyone’s side, as long as it’s the right side. And really it just matters is treating people with respect. That’s really what it comes down to.”
The Nets are scheduled to face off against the Celtics at TD Garden in Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff series Friday, where the arena is expected to be capped to fans at 25 percent capacity.
Beginning Saturday, the Celtics will be allowed to reach "near full capacity,” making the Nets and Celtics Game 4 scheduled for Sunday potentially the first game to be played in TD Garden with nearly full stands since last March.