Let’s make one thing clear: If you do say racist garbage at people different than you, whether that’s in public or done privately, please know that you’re an idiot and everybody in your life is actually happy when you leave the room. Get help.
But also know that, no, you are not committing an act of ‘subtle racism’ if you decide to boo Brooklyn superstar Kyrie Irving when the Nets come to Boston later this weekend. Nor is it an act of overt racism, for that matter. The fact that this even needs to be said is honestly all sorts of ridiculous, but then again, this is Kyrie.
By now, we know this dude is a bit of a weirdo. He’s talented as all hell, but he’s strange, and probably has some sort of mental illness. (Welcome to the party, pal!) But to get ahead of the return and spin a narrative that Celtic fans are going to throw ‘subtle racism’ your way when they boo you in Games 3 and 4 is perhaps Irving’s most disingenuous move yet. And that’s saying something.
If Irving has experienced racism in Boston, as he alluded to with his “it is what it is” remark, this is a new development.
I mean, just ask him yourself.
“I myself can only speak for playing [in Boston]. As an opponent, I’ve never heard anything like that,” Irving said in March 2019 in the aftermath of the DeMarcus Cousins incident. “But I can only go off hearing stories and when you hear something like that, especially people of color, I gravitate towards being on anyone’s side, as long as it’s the right side.
“You know, we represent very different backgrounds and I think coming to Boston has been an eye-opening experience for me, just getting the experience to know Boston. I haven’t really heard too much about stuff like that, but hearing about it, it’s a little saddening. Just to happen, not just in Boston but just as an NBA player, hearing another NBA player going through something like is just terrible, or any athlete hearing racial slurs.”
Irving played just six more games in Boston as a Celtic after making those comments, then dodged trips to TD Garden in 2019-20 after bolting for Brooklyn, and has since returned to the Garden… but only in games without fans in the stands.
The math alone tells you that this is an incredibly, incredibly tight window for Irving to experience racism from fans of the team he led, and with almost all of them still wanting him to stay despite his best efforts to make it known that he was out the door as soon as humanly possible, and later confirming that in front of Brooklyn fans. It was also during the start of us having those tough conversations both in the NBA and in Boston. If there was ever a time to be like, “Hey, this just happened to me and it’s unacceptable,” it was right then and there, and it would’ve driven a discussion that Irving has always seemed interested in furthering (and rightfully so).
And while this puts me in the undeniably uncomfortable position of being a white dude trying to tell someone what they have or have not experienced as a person of color — especially with the aforementioned Cousins incident and 2017 incident with then-Orioles outfielder Adam Jones — it’s hard to imagine this absolute bombshell staying under wraps until the week of Irving’s expected return to a ‘near full capacity’ TD Garden, where some of the loudest boos we’ll ever hear surely await him.
It would also go against Irving’s entire status as the lone wolf willing to speak truth in a ‘fake’ world, and it’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t have come up when Irving went on his Insta-rant about Celtic fans last year.
So, was Irving lying then or is he lying now? Because his own paper trail doesn’t lead us to this landing spot. It instead brings us to — surprise, surprise — more gaslighting from the greatest superstar conman we’ll see in this era of Boston sports.
It’s been almost two years since Kyrie decided to bail on the Celtics and head ‘home’ to Brooklyn. This, under almost every other circumstance, would’ve been fine and been peaceful departures like ones made by Al Horford and Gordon Hayward. But Irving was the one who decided to tell an arena full of Celtic fans that he wanted to re-sign with the team, and even shot a commercial saying he wanted to be the last Celtic to wear No. 11 (a number that’s since been worn by two others players).
And given the way Irving’s Boston tenure ended — cameras catching Irving talking about a team-up with Kevin Durant during All-Star weekend, an absolute mess of a C’s locker room led by Irving and a team full of individuals complaining about their touches, and a lifeless second-round exit — these boos were always coming.
That hell is surely coming for Irving, too.
Much like the ‘Boston sucks’ chants sung by Barclays Center crowds twice in the last four days, and the ‘[expletive] Trae Young’ chant that echoed throughout Madison Square Garden this past weekend, the Garden is going to let Irving hear it throughout every touch, every stoppage, and every minute of these games.
In fact, it’s about the last (and only) thing Celtics fans have to look forward to in 2021. Everybody in the world knows that the Nets are about to sweep the Celtics. At the very worst, they’ll need five games to send the Celtics home for the summer. In a frustrating, lost year where the Celtics undoubtedly took a step (or two) backwards, this will truly be the last gasp of an angry bunch that’s spent the last two and a half years chasing the feeling they felt when Irving verbally committed to the Celtics.
So, to get ahead of what awaits Irving in Boston and the narrative he’s attempting to drill into your head in a series without a real storyline given his team’s dominance, no, these upcoming boos are not racist. They’re simply overdue.
To pretend otherwise is intentionally misleading. But then again, this is Kyrie we’re talking about.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.