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Boston Celtics player backs up Kyrie Irving’s comments, Danny Ainge pushes back

Nets guard Kyrie Irving
Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets will play Game 3 of their first-round NBA Playoff series against the Celtics in Boston Friday evening.

It will represent the first time Irving will play in Boston as a member of the Nets in front of fans since he left the team following the 2018-19 season.

Irving made some news following Brooklyn’s blowout win over the Celtics in Game 2 earlier this week, indicating that there’s a certain level of racism within the city of Boston.

“Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball, there’s not belligerence or racism going on. Subtle racism. I’m not the only one who can attest to this. The whole world knows it,” Irving told reporters earlier in the week.

It’s obvious that Kyrie Irving had an estranged relationship with both the city of Boston and the Celtics’ organization during his drama-filled two-year run in Beantown. Even then, these are the first remarks from Irving suggesting that racism exists within the Eastern metropolis. He never came to that conclusion as a member of the Celtics.

Interestingly enough, current Celtics guard Marcus Smart seemed to back Irving up when talking to the media on Thursday.

“Yeah I’ve heard a couple of them. It’s kind of sad and sickening,” Smart said. “Even though it’s an opposing team, you’re saying these racial slurs and you expect us to go out here and play for you. It’s tough.”

Not every member of the Celtics holds this same belief.

Danny Ainge pushes back against comments from Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving comments about racism in Boston
Apr 21, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby (3) defends against Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) in the second half at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

“I think that we take those kind of things seriously,” Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge said Wednesday, via NBC Sports Boston. “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.”

It’s important to note that Ainge is not talking about his personal experience as a white man. He played eight seasons with the Celtics in the 1980s and has spent nearly the past two decades in their front office. Rather, he’s talking about what he has heard (or not heard) from Celtics players.

As for the Kyrie Irving comments, another former Celtics player also backed him up.

“My family and friends experienced a lot of racism in Boston,” Avery Bradley told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “If they weren’t with me, they experienced all types of stuff. At a hockey game, my brother almost got in a fight with some people because they were acting crazy. I never experienced it, but every other person I knew that was there experienced it.

All of this comes following multiple incidents involving star players and fans during Wednesday’s NBA Playoff action. That included Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young being spit on by a New York Knicks fan at Madison Square Garden.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Kyrie Irving in his return to Boston Friday evening. About 5,000 fans are set to be in attendance at TD Garden due to Massachusetts’ COVID-19 restrictions.

However, Game 4 on Sunday afternoon will include full capacity with said restrictions coming to an end on May 29.

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