On Friday, the Boston Celtics will be back in action at TD Garden as they attempt to avoid falling in a 0-3 hole in their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets. In the meantime, some unfortunately all-too-familiar issues have bubbled to the surface of the playoff discussion recently.
Disrespectful fan behavior, some of which veers into the realm of outright racism, has always been a part of sports. In spite of the growing movement for equality and racial justice, that continues to be the case in 2021.
In the last few days alone, a fan in Philly dumped popcorn on Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook and the family of Memphis Grizzlies point-man was subjected to abhorrent comments and expletive-laden taunts from a group of fans in Salt Lake City. Elsewhere, a fan in New York City spit on Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young.
Closer to home, former Celtic Kyrie Irving expressed concern about he and his teammates being the targets of “subtle racism” from the crowd in Beantown.
While Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has remained curiously in the dark regarding such activity occurring at the Garden, one of the team’s current players has clearly experienced the same things Irving has.
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Tristan Thompson Speaks Out on Racist Remarks in Boston
As relayed via Twitter by The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, Celtics center Tristan Thompson commented on what he has heard from fans in Boston. According to the 10-year pro, the in-arena experience of Celtics players can be dramatically different from that of opposing players.
“My experience being a Celtic, nobody has said anything racial to me,” he said. “But as a visitor, it’s a different story.”
Thompson has an extensive history as a visiting player in Boston, having spent nine years with the Cleveland Cavaliers before making the move Northward. Clearly, that history isn’t wholly positive.
It is his belief that the racism that occurs — subtle or otherwise — is deeply-rooted in the people propagating it.
“If they say anything like that, it comes from their home training, or lack of home training as my mother would say.”
On What Needs to Be Done
Although bad fans and people with racist views exist in every NBA city, Thompson has observed that there are some places where players know that they’ll see it firsthand.
“There are certain cities that you can expect some racial slurs around the third quarter once someone has enough beers and they know that they’re far enough from us where we can’t do nothing to them,” Thompson said.
Nevertheless, he made it clear that fans are a crucial part of the game; that they are appreciated. However, he believes that the strong disciplinary actions the NBA and its teams have taken against those who have behaved poorly are necessary. He further opined that criminal charges should be levied in some circumstances.
“Of course, the fans are very important to us in this league and we appreciate them and their support every night. But there is a fine line when it becomes too much,” he said.
“The league’s doing everything they can and the arena, they give all the rules and regulations,” he said. “There also should probably be a criminal fine, because if you spit on someone on the street, don’t you get fined or arrested or some s**t like that?”
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