There should be no false equivalence drawn between Kyrie Irving stepping on the leprechaun on the iconic Boston Celtics parquet floor and a fan hurling a water bottle at him as he exits the arena.
There is no “both sides” argument to this.
Boston sports culture prides itself on toughness. From the “do your job” Patriots to the “this is our f-ing city” Red Sox to the Bruins (no example needed here; hockey looks painful enough) to the 1980’s “let’s start fights with everybody” Celtics. Cedric Maxwell advocated for this 1980’s brand of toughness when Kevin Durant popped Jayson Tatum with a mean elbow earlier in the series:
“It pissed me off the other day, I’ll just be frank with you,” Maxwell said. “Tatum was in a situation with Durant. Durant came up and hit him with an elbow in the mouth late in the game. Hit him in the mouth, drove down the lane, and then Tatum kind of ticky-tack fouled him, hit him on the arm.
But immediately, he went to the referee and went, ‘dude, he hit me with an elbow!’ That is not the point. The point here is you go directly to [Durant]. Marcus Smart can’t be your only crazy uncle on your team if you’re going to win basketball games. Your two top players have to be more aggressive.
You say ‘oh, Max, you’re talking about violence.’ You’re damn skippy I am, because one thing that happens in this league: ain’t nobody going to punch nobody. Guys aren’t even going to fart good in this league right now. Nothing is going to happen when it comes to that. But your best players have to be advocates for themselves.”
In what world can we suggest that people hurt each other and then call it classless to step on the logo?
Maybe the toughest city in the world shouldn’t have such an ego over who gets to do what with the cartoon leprechaun.
Maybe the city that reviled at a simple request to not do any racism for a day should refrain from throwing water bottles at black athletes.
Before this game, we saw fans spit on Trae Young, insult Ja Morant’s family, pour popcorn on Russell Westbrook, and I’m sure the list will grow longer. Even if Kyrie hadn’t called it out, there was an obvious shift in attention towards Boston as we knew there would be a full crowd for the first time in over a year. With this in mind, someone still found it within themselves to get banned for life from the TD Garden.
We are not participating in an inter-city Racism Olympics. There’s no place for “Yeah, well this city’s fans are way worse.”
Maybe the recent string of lifetime bans from sports arenas is a step in the right direction, but the general reaction of people equating a silly gesture with a thrown object is really disheartening. The cartoon leprechaun on the floor will be OK, but Boston’s reputation is scarred. Not by a singular water bottle, but by the army of people who think violence can easily justified by empty gestures towards mascots.