When it comes to using his platform as a star NBA player for causes he believes in, Jaylen Brown has no illusions about the sort of friction it can cause him. But for Brown, speaking in a recent interview with the New York Times’ Sopan Debthat friction is a worth while price to pay for the good he can do in his personal battle against inequality in education and society write large.
The Boston Celtics star revealed that for all the work he and his peers in the league have done fighting structural and overt racism, he has seen little in the way of substantive change for Black Americans.
“I have not seen it, to be honest,” said Brown. “I think the issue is more systemic.”
“I think what I learned about policing is that it’s not like the NBA, where everybody has these kind of rules that they follow,” he explained.
“How a police station in Memphis runs their police station is different from how they might run it in the New York Police Department. I don’t want to say it’s like the Wild West, but it’s different, you know?”
As for his own experience as a Black American in Boston, the results have been mixed.
“There (are) multiple experiences,” offered Brown, “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,” the Georgia native related. “I think that my experience there has been not as fluid as I thought it would be.”
“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.”
And that range of experiences as a Black American in Boston has not been without the worst of engagements, according to Brown. “I pretty much block it all out,” he suggested.
“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 for me.”
Education and its ability to shape the direction of generations has long been a focal point for Brown’s activism to remedy societal ills that Brown separates from overt racism.
“There (are) other forms of hegemonic racism that are subliminal, such as the inequalities in the education system,” said the Cal-Berkeley alum; “the lack of resources and opportunities through local elections and people voting on how much money or resources should go in this area versus this area.”
“What about those kids who are extremely talented? What about those kids who are gifted who have contributions to make to society? But they’re stumped because of lack of opportunity,” asked Brown rhetorically.
“I’ll forever fight for those kids because I’m one of them.”
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