Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge’s recent comments that he had never heard comments from players about experiencing racism in Boston are being met with “shock” around the league.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated during the network’s “NBA Countdown” program prior to Game 3 of the playoff series between the Celtics and Brooklyn Nets that Ainge’s comments didn’t mesh with reality.
“I think that we take those kind of things seriously,” Ainge said. “I never heard any of that, from any player that I’ve ever played with in my 26 years in Boston. I never heard that before from Kyrie and I talked to him quite a bit. So, I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. We’re just playing basketball. Players can say what they want.”
Kyrie Irving says he hopes he doesn't receive racial abuse from the crowd in Boston when he returns on Friday, making it pretty clear it's happened before.
"Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball, there's no belligerence or any racism going on." pic.twitter.com/EifwUtTMFF
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 26, 2021
Yet, some current Celtics noted that even though the issue isn’t a widespread problem, there are fans who have crossed the line with their comments.
“It’s kind of sad and sickening,” said Marcus Smart. “Even though it’s an opposing team, we’ve had guys on your home team that you’re saying these racial slurs and you expect us to go out here and play for you. It’s tough.
“We just want everyone to be respectful, on and off the court. We want that same respect that we give to fans and the crowd to come out here and put on a good show and not to interfere in that type of manner with them. We expect the same in return from us.”
Jaylen Brown didn’t specify any incidents, but noted the need for the Boston area to improve social services and other areas in order to try to achieve quality.
“I know that every Celtics fan in our arena is not a racist,” Brown said. “We have people of all walks of life, ethnicities, colors that are diehard Celtics fans. So I think by painting every Celtics fan as a racist would be unfair. However, Boston, 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. There’s lack of resources there, lack of opportunity. The tokenism here in Boston needs to be addressed as well.”
Ainge and the Celtics are trying to focus on their series with the Nets, which saw the Celtics cut their 2-0 deficit in half with a 125-119 win on Friday night. Game 4 is set for Sunday night.