Boston’s enthusiasm for their iconic sports franchises has never been questioned, and for that, we should all agree that it is one of the best sports cities — if not the best — in North America. They love their superstars to the point that it gets kind of weird (see: Deflategate), and who can really blame them? Tom Brady, Larry Bird, Ray Bourque, David Ortiz — they’ve had more than their fair share of larger than life figures delivering countless epic moments for close to a century. But there’s always been an uncomfortable reality to that city’s fandom: it REALLY likes it when those superstars are white. As any self aware New Englander will confirm, this well-documented reality isn’t really up for debate.
When it comes to the NBA — a sport dominated by African Americans — Boston’s racial preference seems to rear its ugly head around free agency, when fans begin to lobby the Celtics’ front office for the basketball players they want on their favorite team. Three years ago it was the Kevin Love-a-thon. This year it’s Gordon Hayward-apalooza. On one hand, you can’t blame them for getting so specific with their requests — Love and Hayward are perennial All-Stars and Danny Ainge has been the best general manager at pulling top talent out of thin air since he took the job back in 2003. But on the other hand, those guys are literally the two best white (American) basketball players on the planet, and there’s a reason why they’re always on top of Celts fans’ wishlists. It’d be naive to ignore why they rank so much higher than the 20-plus better players out there.
So when Celtics small forward Jae Crowder heard fans at the TD Garden cheering soon-to-be free agent small forward Gordon Hayward during player introductions on Tuesday night, naturally, he was a little pissed.
HOME TEAM FANS CHEERING FOR THE OPPOSING PLAYERS NOW.. AW MAN OK… SMH BUT GOOD WIN FELLAS ONTO THE NEXT ONE.!!
— JAE CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) January 4, 2017
When Celtics fans started going at him on Twitter for being so “sensitive”, telling him to go back to Dallas if he had a problem with them rooting for an opposing player who, in all likelihood, would take his job, he threw his arms up in disgust.
Though there’s no telling what specifically irked Crowder the most about this bizarre situation, he has every right to be upset that the people who should be cheering for him were doing the opposite. But the fact that he doesn’t hear those same fans cheering for the other All-Stars in 2017’s free agent class that come to town — the Blake Griffins and Kevin Durants and Steph Currys and Chris Pauls — probably isn’t lost on him.
They want Gordon Hayward for more reasons than just his scoring ability.
Sure, people will say “We just want to reunite Hayward with his college coach!” and “Hayward is the best young free agent who’s feasibly within reach!”, and justifiably so. But this is a playoff team with the third-best record in an Eastern Conference that has to compete with a superteam bound to the Finals for the foreseeable future. What good will adding Gordon Hayward do against stopping the Cavaliers come May? Do Celtics fans think Hayward is that much of an impact player that’ll he’ll suddenly make them a title contender?
More importantly, why is a free agent being treated like the team’s saving grace when Danny Ainge’s backlog of first-round draft picks means this team has just as much (if not more) of a chance to upgrade their roster through a trade — something Ainge does better/more often than any GM in the NBA? It’s not like buttering up an imminent free agent is the only way this team can/will improve their chances at a championship. Why not cheer for the stars rumored to be on the trading block? Why doesn’t Paul Millsap or Bradley Beal or CJ McCollum or Carmelo Anthony get the red carpet treatment? Why not cheer for every superstar opponent that comes to Boston, for that matter? Because they didn’t play under Brad Stevens? Give me a break.
There are plenty of guys in the NBA who would make the Boston Celtics a better team. It just seems like the white ones are the ones who get the most attention — or at least more attention from Boston fans than from other fanbases — and it’s gross.
Check out the rest of Crowder’s deleted Twitter interactions with Boston fans who found nothing odd about their very visible, suspiciously specific free agent preferences trumping their hometown allegiance, below…