BOSTON -- Celtics coach Brad Stevens was among those disappointed to hear about the racially offensive language a Celtics fan directed at the Golden State Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins in January.
Stevens had heard about the incident the night it occurred, but said he did not learn of the results of the investigation that followed until Thursday night.
“Listen, it’s disappointing anytime there's a negative fan interaction,” Stevens said. “Most of fan interaction that I've been a part of is what I would say is . . . just good-natured ribbing back and forth. But there's no doubt that this isn't the first time that a fan has crossed a line. It's not the only time this year, obviously in the NBA.”
Earlier this season, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook got into a heated verbal exchange with a fan in Utah.
An investigation by the Jazz on the incident found that fan used racially abusive language and it led to the fan being given a lifetime ban from Jazz games.
According to the Boston Globe, the fan's two-year ban also extends to all TD Garden events.
The Celtics released a statement earlier Friday explaining their investigation and why the individual, a minor, who was verbally abusive to Cousins received a two-year ban from the TD Garden and lifetime probation. The statement:
“On January 26, we were alerted by DeMarcus Cousins that a fan had used racially offensive language towards him. Immediately upon receiving the complaint, the fan, who was a minor, was ejected. The following day, per our policy regarding any reported fan behavior complaint, the team initiated an exhaustive investigation of the incident that included reviewing video from multiple angles and identifying and interviewing numerous fans, security personnel, and police in the immediate vicinity.
“In the course of this investigation, we were able to conclude that the fan had been verbally abusive toward the Golden State bench, but none of the interviewed parties were able to verify the use of racially offensive language, and video evidence proved inconclusive. Based on our investigation, the fan was issued a two-year ban from all Celtics games, and is also subject to lifetime probation pursuant to our policy. The punishment for any corroborated discriminatory language used towards any player, employee, or fan at a Celtics home game is a lifetime ban.
"We were in contact with the Golden State Warriors through this process, sharing our action plan and the final discipline. We express the deepest regrets that this incident happened to DeMarcus, as such behavior violates everything the Boston Celtics have always stood for.”
Celtics guard Kyrie Irving said he's never heard anything racially offensive as an opponent playing in Boston with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but said he's heard stories of it.
"I myself can only speak for playing here as an opponent. I’ve never heard anything like that but I can only go off of hearing stories," Irving said. "When you hear something like that, especially people of color, I gravitate toward being on anyone’s side, as long as it’s the right side. And really it just matters is treating people with respect. That’s really what it comes down to."
Irving said that kind of fan behavior "goes way beyond basketball" and hearing of it in Boston is "a little saddening."
"I think sports, there really gets a gray area where sometimes fans can say really, really hurtful things," he said. "They treat us — I don’t want to say, I said some fans, not all fans—I’m just saying sometimes some instances come where it goes way beyond basketball. And that’s a personal thing. It matters to all of us because we have kids. We have families that we represent. We represent very different backgrounds.
"I think coming to Boston has been an eye-opening experience for me, just getting an experience to know Boston. I haven’t really heard too much about stuff like that. But hearing about it, it’s a little saddening, just to happen, not just in Boston, but just as an NBA player, hearing another NBA player going through something like that is just terrible. Or any athlete, hearing racial slurs. But racism still exists in our society. It happens every day. I don’t want to limit it just to us athletes. A lot of people go through a lot of racial tension. So, it’s a terrible thing in our society, racism in general."
Has Irving seen incidents like this in other cities?
"I don’t want to get into like comparison. I think at one point or another, things happen like that. Like I said, I don’t ever want that to happen to anyone, whether you’re walking down the street or whether you’re playing an NBA basketball game and in today’s society, there’s no room for that. We can’t accept that and it’s just what it is.”
NBC Sports Boston Celtics Insider Chris Forsberg contributed to this story.
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