In the wake of Brooklyn Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving’s recent remarks ahead of Game 3 between the Boston Celtics and the Nets, head coach Brad Stevens was asked if he’s ever heard or witnessed racism at TD Garden and delivered an interesting take.
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Irving, who was asked about his return to TD Garden and playing in front of Celtics fans for the first time since leaving Boston to sign a long-term deal with the Nets, warned his former fanbase to make sure the booing and chanting don’t get racial.
“It’s not my first time being an opponent in Boston,” Irving said Tuesday, after the Celtics’ 130-108 Game 2 loss to the Nets. “So, I’m just looking forward to competing with my teammates, and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball. You know, there’s no belligerence, or any racism going on subtle racism, or people yelling s*** from the crowd.”
Brad Stevens On Kyrie Irving’s Take On TD Garden: ‘Take Them Very, Very Seriously’
Coach Stevens, who was a recent guest on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand, weighed in on Irving’s comments.
“I’d certainly take any comments like that, I think you should take them very, very seriously,” Stevens said via 98.5 The Sports Hub. “I don’t know what context he was discussing there, but I do think, I know that the [TD] Garden, I know that the Celtics, I know that the NBA; I know that everybody is very alert to making sure that fans don’t cross the line. And I think that that’s really important.”
Stevens On Racism at TD Garden: ‘Hasn’t Been Brought to My Attention’
Although the eight-year veteran NBA coach says throughout Irving’s tenure in Boston Kyrie never made mention of any racial incidents; he knows it doesn’t mean Irving hadn’t heard or experienced something similar.
“People shouldn’t ever feel like they’re being discriminated against,” Stevens added. “But, I think that everybody is dialed into that now. That hasn’t been brought to my attention that that’s happened, maybe but once or twice since I’ve been here; and it was dealt with immediately. But, maybe it’s happened and guys haven’t talked about it, and certainly, Kyrie had never mentioned anything to me about it.
But, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and I think that those things should always be taken really seriously.”
Celtics Fans Vs. Kyrie Irving
For most Celtics fans — the ones eager to boo and ridicule the star who promised he’d stay in town long-term, only to bail on the Celtics at the first opportunity he could — hearing Irving mention Boston’s racist past suggests that kind of behavior is par for the course at TD Garden.
It’s off-putting and it creates a narrative; one that’s likely to — as it absolutely should — shield Kyrie of any non-racial epithets but it also diminishes the level of hostility that was in play prior to Tuesday.
“I am not the only one who can attest to this,” Irving said about racism at TD Garden. “But, it is just, you know… it is what it is. The whole world knows it.”
Now, the same hostility that had been reckoning for nearly two years, long before Kyrie’s comments after Game 2, will lighten. And if it doesn’t, well there’s always that fittingly “Boston is so racist” narrative for Irving to fall back on.
So, for him, it’s a win-win. Well played, Kyrie.