Jaylen Brown calls out racist, toxic Celtics fans

Boston Celtics All-Star guard Jaylen Brown was interviewed by Sopan Dan for the New York Times in a piece that came out late last week titled, "Jaylen Brown on Basketball, Activism and Being Black in Boston." Brown talks about his activism, his relationship with Kyrie Irving and Ye (formerly Kanye West), as well as his issues with toxic Celtics fans.

This of course isn't the first time that Jaylen Brown has been critcal of Celtics. Late last June Jaylen "liked" a Twitter post mentioning how disrespected Jaylen Brown is by Celtics fans.

This came after some Boston Celtics media members, most notably Brian Scalabrine, as well as some fans came up with trade proposals for Kevin Durant, which included Jaylen as the centerpiece. Brad Stevens seemed to alleviate fans' concerns that Jaylen was pissed and relayed that he told Brown that he wasn't looking to trade him and that the All-Star guard knew that rumors were part of the business.

A segment of Celtics fans over the past year (at least) have bombarded Twitter with criticism for anyone who ever tweets criticizing Jaylen or includes him a trade proposal. They claim that criticism of Jaylen on social media will be the cause of why he leaves in free agency this coming summer.

It's a pretty flimsy theory considering that 1. Jaylen has never hinted about leaving Boston in free agency. 2. The OVERWHELMING amount of tweets and social media posts about Brown are from fans and media lauding how great he is both as a player and person/activist off the court.

3. While some Celtics fans have a tendency to be jerks to players online, it kind of pales in comparison to fans of other teams like the Lakers, who whenever they lose were just brutal to Russell Westbrook or whoever is the current scapegoat. And 4. These fans are implying that Jaylen is too sensitive or too soft to handle a small percentage of feedback that is critcial and he will leave at the first chance due to that.

Now while I don't think toxic Celtics fans are as bad as some other teams' fans, that doesn't excuse them. I hate toxic people in general. I've never gone to a sporting event and hurled insults at players or sent them hateful messages. Sports are supposed to be fun and an escape from the more trying parts of life. I don't care if you tweet, "Oh man we're going to lose this game," "We suck right now," or "Marcus needs to stop shooting 3's." I don't care if you think a player should be traded even. Shoot most GM's don't have any untouchables.

Do I believe people are prisoners of the moment too much? Definitely. But as long as you're not attacking a player or their family personally (like shouting at them in person or sending a hateful tweet where you "at" or tag them), you are entitled to your own opinions on the team you root for.

Last summer I kept seeing fans talk about how other fans were driving Jaylen out of town, but I didn't see the hate toward Brown that they were claiming. Now when Gordon Hayward came back from his horrific injury and wasn't the star that he was prior, he definitely got a ton of hate online. And fans even attacked his wife. Kemba Walker also received way too much hate because he wasn't the star he was in Charlotte while he played for the Celtics again due to an injury.

Jaylen on the other hand seems to be loved as much as any current Celtics player. The only guys who can rival him in terms of love received are Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart, though the latter is now a distant third due to his poor play of late. Unfortunately, I don't doubt that if Jaylen Brown started to struggle mightily that fans would turn on him. I hate that about some fans. No one wants to miss shots or get injured.

As long as a player is giving his full effort and being a team player, you should be trying to uplift him and not beat him when he's down. Again this toxic experience is not isolated to just Celtics fans.

Jaylen Brown's answers in his New York Times interview were more alarming because his discontent with Celtics fans included a racial component. In 2023 many people are terrified to talk about race since there scared they are going to say something wrong. With that approach you rarely get any dialogue and groups don't really come together. It's a shame, since the best way to bring people together is to have a diverse group of people discussing things openly.

Then whenever race is brought up you two of the two extreme groups saying their canned responses. The virtual signalers on one side and the legit racists on the other. No one's minds and hearts ever change.

Boston of course has a very poor history when it comes to racism. In terms of my experience at Celtics games and among fandom, the first player that I saw really get hated on was Dino Radja. Was that because he was a foreigner or because he played in the first real extended era where the Celtics weren't winning? Who knows.

After Dino, the next guy who I felt got way too much hate was Antoine Walker. Most of it was because fans thought he shot too much, but I also did hear some racial stuff about him. If Antoine Walker were to say he got treated worse in Boston because he was Black, I'd nod my head. After Antoine was traded the guys I'd see get the most hate were the overpaid players like Raef Lafrentz, Mark Blount, and Wally Szczerbiak. Brian Scalabrine also got it pretty bad before the 180 occurred and he became beloved during the KG era.

Since then Big Baby was picked on more than he deserved and then the max player contract guys referenced earlier Kemba and Gordon. Kyrie Irving had to deal with the fan base being pissed that Isaiah Thomas was traded (for him), but that fan base supported him strongly until the hints started dropping that his preseason pledge to re-sign in Boston was looking tenuous at best, which coincided with underperforming play from a very stacked Celtics team.

When Kyrie left as a free agent, he was added to the list of former Boston sports stars who left and were hated by many fans. Think Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon from the Boston Red Sox or Ray Allen when he left to join LeBron and the Heat. I don't mind fans booing an opposing player when he returns and your still bitter. But the hate these guys end up getting is always much worse than the crime. Kyrie is the only star player from that group who's left and has continued to bash Boston.

Whenever there is a charge of racism the current Celtics regime has pledged to investigate. During the Pierce/Rondo/KG/Ray years you rarely heard anything about racism. They all seemed to love their time in Boston and the only one who left bitter was Allen, but that was due to his role on the team (and contract offer). Kendrick Perkins who has never been shy to state his truth said he never experienced racism in Boston after Kyrie called out the fanbase.

Marcus Smart has brought up racism, but has also said many times that Celtics fans are the best in the world. Does every act of racism need to be eliminated? Of course. But as long as people continue to be people, which means some will be assholes, it's not exactly an easy task to eliminate all racism. Assholes will say the meanest things they can think of. Whether that's insulting ones looks, race, gender, sexuality, etc. It's sad, but it's true that this toxic behavior exists.

Here are Jaylen's responses when asked about being a Black athlete in Boston:

What has your experience been like as a Black professional athlete in Boston?

There’s multiple experiences: as an athlete, as a basketball player, as a regular civilian, as somebody who’s trying to start a business, as someone who’s trying to do things in the community.

There’s not a lot of room for people of color, Black entrepreneurs, to come in and start a business.

I think that my experience there has been not as fluid as I thought it would be.

What do you mean by that?

Even being an athlete, you would think that you’ve got a certain amount of influence to be able to have experiences, to be able to have some things that doors open a little bit easier. But even with me being who I am, trying to start a business, trying to buy a house, trying to do certain things, you run into some adversity.

Other athletes have spoken about the negative way that fans have treated Black athletes while playing in Boston. Have you experienced any of that?

I have, but I pretty much block it all out. It’s not the whole Celtic fan base, but it is a part of the fan base that exists within the Celtic nation that is problematic. If you have a bad game, they tie it to your personal character.

I definitely think there’s a group or an amount within the Celtic nation that is extremely toxic and does not want to see athletes use their platform, or they just want you to play basketball and entertain and go home. And that’s a problem to me.

So first off, I always give people the benefit of the doubt, whether that's a superstar from my favorite team or a player on a rival team. If Jaylen says that he experienced racism, I believe that he feels that way. And based on society as it is, I also believe he likely has experienced racism in Boston. When I used to go to games back in the 90's I did witness racism at the TD Garden and in the Boston area. Over the past fifteen years though, I've seen a much more diverse fandom at games and have never heard anyone say anything racist there. But maybe my experience is limited due to the small amount of games I go to or where I sit (not the good seats).

So my questions for Celtics fans that go to a lot of games are: Have you experienced fans being harsher to Jaylen than they were to Gordon Hayward? And the follow up question is are these fans saying mean stuff to Brown or racist, mean stuff?

Contrary to what this fan above may think, being mean to a Black person is not automatically racism. It could be, but it could also just be that the perpetrator is an overall jerk. I don't fault someone in a marginalized group of assuming racism based on past negative experiences with another group, so there's nothing wrong with Jaylen's opinions.

But if racist incidents at TD Garden are alleged, the Celtics should investigate them, gather all the information, talk to people involved and deal with them. Jaylen didn't give specifics concerning what fans have said to him. If you are a Black person and accuse someone of racism, you deserve to have it investigated. Conversely, if you are a White person and accused of racism, it should also be investigated, since the stigma of being called a racist is very damning.

In some cases something is cut and dry racist. Other times the Black person may have felt something was racist and the White person felt it was not. The biggest concern about Jaylen's quotes should be what percentage does he believe of Celtics fans are racists? His wording is open to interpretation with some theorizing he's saying it's a small percentage and others theorizing he's calling out most of the fan base, but also saying some fans are fine.

Now toxic fans in general are an issue, but you will find them with almost every fan base of a popular team. And when said team is losing, they are even bigger pains. When you have a team with a smaller fan base and less passionate fans, you'll find less toxic fans, but also much less fans who are Stanning for their favorite players.

For example if Jaylen Brown or any All-Star played for the Charlotte Hornets they'd get less love from fans overall, but also less toxic fan experiences. This is why for decades some players in sports have avoided bigger markets, while others long for them.

"Boston fans are racist" is what trolls and toxic people want to hear. "Boston fans are toxic," doesn't get the same thirst out of these fans (and media members). I would suggest to Celtics fans to just not be assholes or jerks to anyone, regardless if your intent is racist or not. That way no player will think you're being an ass or a racist. Sounds simple enough right?

And if you're someone that thinks that Jaylen is making up his accusations or on the flip side you think that anyone that asks questions and doesn't blindly condemn Bostonians as racist then you are both part of the problem. As Ted Lasso said, "Be curious, not judgmental." Judging Jaylen for stating what he feels is true is wrong. So is judging anyone who has follow up questions. Have dialogues.

Lastly the whole "This person is a horrible fan and I'm a real fan!" thing is also toxic. You're not a better fan because you think Robert Williams is an All-Star than the fan who says he's injured too much. You're not a better fan because you predict the Celtics to win the championship than the fan who thinks they won't. You can be down on the team or a player or you can be a "green teamer" and each makes a fine fan.

You're actually a bad fan though if you spend so much of your time talking about how awful your fellow fans who have different views on how good they think a current Celtics team or player is. That's toxic behavior. Attacking strangers on social media is toxic. Some people don't think they are in that group, because they call themselves "positive." Nope, your just as toxic.

The fact that any fans of a team would spend their free time in what's supposed to be an escape (rooting for a sports team) by ripping their fellow fans or the players they root for personally is pathetic. Hopefully if we could get to a point of less toxic energy in general, we'd have less toxic racism specifically. If you're a jerk to strangers on the internet (or in person for that matter), you are part of the problem.

And no "I'm just telling you like it is" doesn't mean you're not a jerk. Means you're even more likely to be a person who makes premature, assumptive judgements. And if you tell people they aren't entitled to opinions and should just shut up and listen, you too are a part of the toxic problem.