In response to Kevin Garnett calling Sixers fans “fair weather“—how hateful!—Philly Inquirer columnist John Mitchell writes that it’s better to be a fair-weather fan than to be racist. Well, sure. I suppose that’s true. But is Mitchell implying that Boston and its sports fans are racist? Pretty much:
I say that it’s better to be fair weather than to be anything remotely akin the cretins that unleashed their racist vitriol via Twitter upon Washington Capitals defenseman Joel Ward, a Black hockey player, last month after he eliminated Boston’s Bruins from the NHL playoffs with an overtime goal.
Can’t really call this an isolated incident, my friend, not unless you believe that those clowns were gathered together in some sort of Bruins/Skinheads gathering and, after their team went down, they all took to Twitter once Ward drove the stake through Boston’s heart.
No, this wasn’t the whole Boston fan base, not at all. But it’s not a coincidence that Bill Russell, the biggest sports winner in the history of Boston sports, absolutely loathed the city and a fan base that he saw as racist.
His words, not mine.
First of all, you can find any type of hatred or bigotry on Twitter or the internet if you want to, and it’s no surprise that racism crept into the post-defeat tweets of some Bruins fans—many of whom, by the way, were identified as residents of Canada, upstate New York, and other places outside of Boston—when a black player scored the winning goal. You will find similarly awful tweets about the heroes (or goats) of just about any sporting event that takes place just about anywhere on the planet. Why? Because no inhabited place on Earth is free of assholes. In fact, if you want find a specific type of awful opinion or some type of nasty “ism” in any given place, you will probably succeed as long as there are enough assholes to poll and their politics are not kept hidden.
Secondly, setting aside the absence of actual quotations from Russell before writing “his words, not mine,” note the tense that Mitchell used for the verbs in those paraphrased Russell words: “loathed” and “saw,” not “loathes” or “sees.” That’s because the Boston that Russell loathed was the Boston of the 1960s—fifty years ago—not the current Boston with which Russell has had a rather public reconciliation in recent years. Meanwhile, was Philadelphia some kind of bastion of integration and racial harmony at the time? No, it was not. There were few such places in America at the time. And that’s why we can find quotes from African-American athletes of that era that are similarly damning of that city and its fans, such as Dick Allen quipping, “I’ll play first, third, left. I’ll play anywhere—except Philadelphia.” That’s because Phillies fans would throw batteries, coins, and racial epithets at Allen when he was on the field. The amazing thing? Allen was on the Phillies.
If Russell’s home crowd was racist, and that is somehow indicative of Boston fans today, was not Allen’s Philadelphia also racist? If I uncover some racist tweets written by Philly sports fans, do I as a Bostonian get to write a column about Philly fans being worse because they are both fair-weather and racist whereas Boston is racist and loyal? That would be awfully inane.
Thirdly, Kevin Garnett is a player renowned for using whatever motivations he can to psyche himself up and get into the opponent’s head. Anybody who knew this about him immediately assumed that KG’s criticism of Philly fans was a way to get them on his case in tonight’s game so he can then respond with another monster performance on the court. At worst, it was a silly and inaccurate thing to say, and it could end up inspiring the Sixers to even the series for a third time. But there’s nothing truly inflammatory about it. Writing a newspaper column, however, in which you call a city and its fan base “racist” is pretty much the definition of inflammatory. And that’s why Mitchell is getting flamed in the comments below that post.