A fan clad in a Boston Celtics jersey was arrested Sunday after a bottle nearly hit Nets goalie Kyrie Irving in the head following Boston’s loss in Game 4 at TD Garden. It was the latest in a series of unruly fan behaviors as NBA arenas begin to open near full capacity for the playoffs.
Last week, before the best of seven series moved to Boston, Irving, a former Celtics player who is black, anticipated booing them but urged fans not to be belligerent or racist. For decades, black athletes in several sports, including Celtics legend Bill Russell, have spoken of the racism they experienced in Boston.
“We pretend we care about each other as humans, but we just call things before they happen like I did the other day,” Irving said after the game. Sunday. “I tell people, ‘Just keep on playing basketball.'”
Irving stressed that he expects fans to support their local teams and that most are eager to see quality athletes perform. But he said the sport is now at a crossroads.
“It has been so in history, in terms of entertainment, performers and sports for a long time, and it just underpins racism and treats people like they’re in a human zoo,” Irving said. “Throw stuff at them, say things. There is a point where it gets too much. “
Irving was heading for 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. Several videos on social media, a person wearing a Celtics jersey was taken away by the police.
The bottle toss follows a string of incidents last Wednesday night: in Philadelphia, a fan poured popcorn on the head of Washington Wizards goalie Russell Westbrook as he left the game injured. In New York City, a fan spat at Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young at Madison Square Garden. In Utah, security has kicked out three fans for obscene behavior towards the family of Memphis Grizzlies keeper Ja Morant.
“We have had times in history where people reacted and went into the crowd so we are wrong and we have to be civilized and we have to keep our cool and we have to keep our cool and that reflects on us, ”Irving said. “I just want to keep this clear and honest, and it’s just unacceptable for this to happen, but we’re moving on.”
Following Wednesday’s incidents, the NBA issued a statement saying its fan code of conduct would be “vigorously enforced.” Fans involved in these incidents have been indefinitely excluded from the arenas.
“Anything could have happened with that water bottle thrown at me, but my brothers surrounded me,” Irving said. “I had people in the crowd. So I’m just trying to get home with my wife and kids.