Celtics guard Kyrie Irving offered a poignant response to a fan incident involving Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins during a game in Boston on Jan. 26.
The Celtics issued a statement, banning an unnamed fan, a minor, from TD Garden Arena for the remainder of the season and all of next year after Cousins reported the fan directed a racial slur at him. The Celtics weren't able to confirm whether there was a racial slur through their investigation, though they did determine "the fan had been verbally abusive toward the Golden State bench."
When asked about the incident after the Celtics' 114-112 win over the Pacers on Friday, Irving shared sympathy for what Cousins went through while in Boston.
“Really what matters is just treating people with respect,” Irving said, per NESN.com. “That’s really what it comes down to. In sports, there really gets a gray area where sometimes fans can say really hurtful things. They treat us – and I say some fans, not all fans. I’m just saying sometimes instances come where it goes way beyond basketball, and that’s a personal thing.
"It matters to all of us because we have kids, we have families that we represent. We represent very different backgrounds. I think coming to Boston has been a very eye-opening experience for me. Just getting to experience and 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 go through something like that is just terrible, or any athlete hearing racial slurs.”
Irving went on to explain that the issue goes further than just the basketball court and has become a societal problem.
“Racism still exists in our society. It happens every day,” Irving said. “I don’t want to limit it to just us athletes. A lot of people go through a lot of racial tension. It’s a terrible thing in our society. … At one point or another, things happen like that and I don’t want that to ever happen to anyone. Whether you’re walking down the street or playing in an NBA basketball game, in today’s society there’s no room for that. We can’t accept that.”