Celtics Fan Arrested After Allegedly Throwing Water Bottle at Kyrie Irving: 'We Are Not Animals'
A Boston Celtics fan has been arrested after allegedly throwing a plastic water bottle at Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving during Sunday's game at TD Garden.
Following the Nets' 141-126 win over the Celtics in Game 4 of the playoffs, a water bottle was thrown as the team exited the arena via the tunnel for the locker room, barely missing Irving's head. Reacting immediately, teammate Tyler Johnson began yelling at the crowd in the direction the bottle was thrown from.
The incident was caught on camera and shared to social media.
Shortly after, the fan was escorted out of the arena and detained by Boston police. According to ESPN, 21-year-old attendee and Celtics fan Cole Buckley of Braintree, Massachusetts has been charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in the incident, with an arraignment set for Tuesday in Boston Municipal Court.
A spokesperson for TD Garden said the suspect may now be banned from the venue for life.
"We have zero tolerance for violations of our guest code of conduct, and the guest is subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden," the official said, per NBC Boston.
After the game, Irving, 29, told the press that "underlying racism" was to blame for the incident.
"It's unfortunate that sports has come to a lot of this kind of crossroad where you're seeing a lot of old ways come up," the guard said. "It's been that way in history in terms of entertainment and performers and sports for a long period of time. It's just underlying racism and treating people like they're in a human zoo – throwing stuff at people, saying things. There's a certain point where it gets to be too much."
Throughout the game, Irving — who left the Celtics two seasons ago — was often booed by fans. Nets teammate Kevin Durant voiced his disappointment with the bad behavior during a press conference after Sunday's game.
"Fans got to grow up at some point," Durant said. "I know that being in the house for a year and a half with the pandemic got a lot of people on edge, got a lot of people stressed out, but when you come to these games, you have to realize these men are human."
"We are not animals; we are not in the circus. You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan," he continued. "So, have some respect for the game. Have some respect for the human beings, and have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn't be proud of you throwing water bottles at basketball players or spitting on players or tossing popcorn. So, grow the f-- up, and enjoy the game. It's bigger than you."
Before his return to Boston for Games 3 and 4 of the playoffs, Irving voiced his concern about potentially being a target of hate. He previously played for the Celtics from 2017 to 2019, signing a four-year contract with the Nets in 2019.
"I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball; there's no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism," Irving told ESPN last week. "People yelling s--- from the crowd, but even if it is, it's part of the nature of the game and we're just going to focus on what we can control."
Across the NBA, multiple incidents have been reported of fans interacting inappropriately towards players in recent days. The New York Times reports that fans have been banned indefinitely for spitting at Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, using inappropriate language at Memphis Grizzlies' guard Ja Morant's family, and most recently, throwing popcorn on Washington Wizards' Russell Westbrook.
On Thursday, the NBA released a statement telling spectators it is "critical" to show respect to players and officials, while sharing the organization's fan code of conduct which the league said "will be vigorously enforced" moving forward, according to USA Today. The National Basketball Players Association also followed up with a statement of its own about the recent events.
"True fans of this game honor and respect the dignity of our players," the release said. "No true fan would seek to harm them or violate their personal space. Those who do have no place in our arenas. And their conduct is appropriately evaluated by law enforcement just as if it occurred on a public street. Respect our Players. Respect our Game."