BOSTON — A Boston Celtics fan who threw a water bottle apparently at Kyrie Irving’s head as he was leaving the court at TD Garden following the Brooklyn Nets’ 141-126 victory on Sunday night has been arrested, according to a statement from TD Garden.
The fan was escorted out of the arena by Boston police, and was arrested “for throwing an object,” according to the statement.
The bottle narrowly missed Irving, who was walking toward the tunnel after his 39-point performance helped give Brooklyn a 3-1 series lead over the Celtics.
“You can see that people just feel very entitled out here,” Irving said about the incident. “They paid for their tickets — great, I’m grateful that they’re coming in to watch a great performance. But we’re not at the theater. We’re not throwing tomatoes and other random stuff at the people that are performing.”
According to Boston Police, a witness says the suspect — 21-year-old Cole Buckley of Braintree, Massachusetts — threw a Dasani water bottle at Irving. Buckley is charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and will be arraigned Tuesday in Boston Municipal Court.
“We will support and provide assistance to Boston Police as this incident is under review,” a TD Garden spokesperson said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for violations of our guest code of conduct, and the guest is subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden.”
This is the most recent incident in a slew of instances of fans throwing items or hurling bodily fluids toward players. Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook had a carton of popcorn dumped on him by a fan in Philadelphia when he was walking through a tunnel at the Wells Fargo Center last week. Hawks guard Trae Young was spit on by a fan in Madison Square Garden. Tee Morant, father of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, said that several fans in Salt Lake City directed racist and vulgar remarks at him and his wife while they were attending a game in Vivint Arena.
When the bottle was thrown Sunday night, Irving and his teammate Tyler Johnson immediately stopped and looked up into the stands. Irving declined to give specifics on the back-and-forth.
“You’re seeing a lot of old ways come up,” Irving said. “It has been that way in history in terms of entertainment, performers and sports for a long period of time and just underlying racism and just treating people like they’re in a human zoo. Throwing stuff at people, saying things. There is a certain point where it gets to be too much.”
This weekend marked the first time Irving has played in TD Garden with fans since he signed with Brooklyn as a free agent in 2019. Before the Nets traveled to Boston, Irving — who played for the Celtics for two seasons — was asked how he thought he would be received by the fans in TD Garden. Irving said he hoped the fans would “just keep it strictly basketball. There’s no belligerence or any racism going on; subtle racism.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a radio interview on Thursday that he had never heard any players say they had dealt with racism as a member of the Celtics in the past.
“I think that we take those kind of things seriously,” Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “I never heard any of that, from any player that I’ve ever played with in my 26 years in Boston. 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.”
Sunday’s bottle throwing was not the first incident between players and fans in Boston. Two years ago, a TD Garden fan was given a two-year ban for yelling a racial slur at All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins — then with the Golden State Warriors — in a game on Jan. 26, 2019.
“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,” the Celtics said in a statement at the time about the fan, who was a minor.
The Celtics said that based on their investigation, the fan would be banned for two years. Current Nets star Kevin Durant was on that Warriors team with Cousins, while Irving was at the time still a member of the Celtics.
“Fans got to grow up at some point,” Durant said after Sunday’s game. “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. 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.”