Boston Herald, October 2021
Tristan Thompson was trying to be polite, all things considered. In the unhealed wound that is Boston’s historically toxic mix of race and sports, truth escapes from even the most well-intentioned smile, like the one worn by Thompson a day after his good friend and former Cleveland teammate, Kyrie Irving, lit the River Charles on fire. “The whole world knows it,” the Nets star had summed up about the city’s tarnished reputation, and expressed an impossible hope the crowd would leave him alone — leave the subtle racism at home, please. He had once told these same former adorers he wanted No. 11 hung from the rafters, before changing his mind.
Irving was about to play his first game in front of a TD Garden crowd — the first near-capacity gathering of the season — since joining the Nets. They booed and screamed the usual crude chants in his absence during Nets visits, and that was nothing compared to what they had stored up for his return.
So Thompson got caught in the middle. Where and when does passion for one’s team cross the line into racist hate? “I mean, I think that’s what makes Boston fans special, not the racism part, but the part that they’re very into the game and they want to be the sixth man on the court with how they can get under our skin and taunt us and try to do that,” Thompson said.