Kyrie Irving, now on the Brooklyn Nets, previously played for the Boston Celtics from 2017 to 2019

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 26, 2021 02:26 PM
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Kyrie Irving
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Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is hoping Celtics fans keep their cool when he makes his return to Boston, two seasons after leaving the team.

On Friday, Irving will play in front of the Boston crowd after having helped to put the Celtics behind in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Irving and the Nets currently have a commanding 2-0 game lead in the best of seven series against the Celtics, and the 29-year-old baller doesn't want to be the target of vitriol during Game 3.

"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.

"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," he added.

The Celtics are expected to have 25 percent of their audience capacity for Game 3, but that will balloon to near full capacity for Game 4, according to NBC Boston.

The team did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on Irving's remarks.

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Irving isn't the only Black athlete to bring up the subject of racism in Boston. Last year, former Minnesota Twins star Torii Hunter opened up about being called the n-word while playing against the Red Sox in the city.

The Red Sox then released a statement in support of Hunter, confirming the incidents he mentioned.

"Torii Hunter's experience is real. If you doubt him because you've never heard it yourself, take it from us, it happens," the statement read. "Last year there were seven reported incidents at Fenway Park where fans used racial slurs. Those are just the ones we know about. And it's not only players. It happens to the dedicated Black employees who work for us on game days. 

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Red Sox president Sam Kennedy previously issued an apology to then-Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who said he also was called the n-word multiple times while playing at Fenway in 2017, according to ESPN.

"It is what it is," Irving told reporters of the racism in Boston. "The whole world knows it."