A fan in a Boston Celtics jersey was arrested Sunday after a bottle nearly hit Nets guard Kyrie Irving in the head after Boston’s Game 4 loss to TD Garden. It was the latest in a series of unruly fan behaviors as NBA arenas begin to open to near-full capacity for the playoffs.
Last week, before the best of seven series switched to Boston, Irving, a former Celtics player who is black, had expected a booing but had asked fans not to be warlike or racist. For decades, black athletes in several sports, including Celtics legend Bill Russell, have talked about the racism they have experienced in Boston.
“We claim we love each other as human beings, but we just call things up before they happen like me the other day,” Irving said after Sunday’s game. “I say to people, ‘Just keep that basketball. “”
Irving stressed that he expected fans to take root in their home team and that most were eager to see quality athletes perform. But he said sports were now at a crossroads.
“It has been like this in history in terms of entertainment, artists and sports for a long time and just underlying racism and just treating people like they are in a human zoo,” Irving said. “Throwing things at them and saying things. There is a certain point where it just gets too much. ”
Irving was heading into an arena tunnel after the Nets beat the Celtics, 141-126, when an object that appeared to be a water bottle sailed right past his head. More videos on social media showed that a person in a Celtics jersey was led away by the police.
The bottle-throwing followed a run of events from last Wednesday night: In Philadelphia, a fan poured popcorn on the head of Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook as he left the game with an injury. In New York, a fan of Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young spat in Madison Square Garden. In Utah, security shot three fans out for obscene behavior toward the family of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant.
“We’ve had times in history where people have reacted and gone in the crowd, so we’re wrong and we need to be civilized, and we need to stay calm, and we need to stay cool, and that’s reflected. on us, “said Irving. “Just want to keep it up front and truthful, and it’s just unacceptable that those things happen, but we’re moving on.”
Following Wednesday’s incidents, the NBA released a statement saying its code of conduct would be “strongly enforced.” The fans involved in these incidents are excluded from the arenas indefinitely.
“Everything could have happened with the water bottle thrown at me, but my brothers surrounded me,” Irving said. “I had people in the crowd. So just try to get home to my wife and my kids. ”