Ainge addresses impact of Kyrie Irving's comments about C's fans originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Danny Ainge can't personally attest to what Kyrie Irving said Tuesday night, but he understands the impact of Irving's words.
Following the Brooklyn Nets' Game 2 win over the Boston Celtics in their first-round playoff series, Irving said he hoped there would be "no belligerence or any racism going on; subtle racism and people yelling s--- from the crowd" during Game 3 in Boston, which will be Irving's first in front of Celtics fans since leaving the team in 2019.
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When asked if he had experienced racism in Boston before, Irving responded, "I'm not the only one who can attest to this but ... it is what is."
Ainge, who has been the Celtics' president of basketball operations since 2003 and spent eight seasons in Boston as a player, told 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" he hadn't heard about any racist incidents from Irving or other Celtics players.
"Quite honestly, I have never heard any of it,” Ainge said. "I’m not saying the city of Boston, I’m saying the TD Garden. I think our fans are very respectful.
"I think that we take those kinds of things seriously. I never heard any of that from any player in my 26 years in Boston. I never heard that from Kyrie, and I talked to him quite a bit. I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, we’re just playing basketball. Players can say what they want."
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made similar remarks Wednesday but added that Irving's comments shouldn't be discredited.
"Maybe it’s happened and guys haven’t talked about it," Stevens said. "And certainly, Kyrie had never mentioned anything to me about it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And I think that those things should always be taken really seriously."
Ainge also is aware of the influence an All-Star like Irving has on other NBA players, and that Irving's comments potentially could factor into a player's decision about coming to Boston.
"I think that everybody’s influencing somebody," Ainge said. "So yeah, I think that there’s – my fear is that could possibly happen. But I think that our players, and players that have played here in the past, all have their experiences to share, and that’s just one player."
As for Friday night's Game 3, Ainge shares Irving's hope that there's no foul play, and that the atmosphere in the Garden will be one of excitement.
"Fans will do what they want to do," Ainge said. "I’ve been booed a million times in my career and I enjoy it. I got a kick out of Trae Young last night. He was getting booed in New York and he was thriving in it, excelling in it and embracing it. I think it’s fun and a part of the game.”