Speaking to the media ahead of Friday's Game 3 against the Nets, Celtics guard Marcus Smart echoed recent remarks by former teammate Kyrie Irving about hearing racist comments from fans at Boston home games.
Irving played for the Celtics from 2017-19, and said Wednesday he hopes Boston fans will keep their comments "strictly basketball" on Friday, adding that he hoped not to hear "subtle racism and people yelling s--- from the crowd," per Boston.com's Tom Westerholm.
On Thursday, Smart backed up Irving's concerns, saying that he's heard fans yell racist slurs in the past.
“I’ve heard a couple of them," Smart said, according to Jay King of The Athletic. "It’s kind of sad and sickening because even though it’s an opposing team, we have guys on your home team that you’re saying these racial slurs and you’re expecting us to go out there and play for you.”
Last October, Smart penned an article for The Player's Tribune in which he detailed an encounter with a fan after a game from a few years prior. Smart wrote that he told a woman wearing a Celtics jersey to get out of the street to avoid oncoming traffic, and the woman responded by shouting a racial slur at him.
"For a second it was like I couldn’t breathe ... And in an instant, just like that, I was made to feel less than human," Smart wrote. "I wasn’t a person to this woman. I was a form of entertainment. Nothing more. And, believe me, it took every ounce of restraint in my body not to curse her out."
Smart was drafted by the Celtics in the first round in 2014 and has spent his entire career in Boston. Following Irving's comments, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said he's never heard any concern about fans shouting racist remarks at players in 26 years.
"I think that we take those kind of things seriously. I never heard any of that, from any player that I’ve ever played with in my 26 years in Boston," Ainge said, according to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports. "I never heard that before from Kyrie, and I talked to him quite a bit. So, I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. We’re just playing basketball. Players can say what they want."
Game 3 of the series between the Nets and Celtics will tip off Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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