Jaylen Brown, one of the Boston Celtics’ most consistent players, recently spoke up about his experience as a Black athlete on the club. Brown addressed the poor treatment of Black players by certain Boston fans in an interview with Sopan Deb of the New York Times.
He said: “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.”
Brown also spoke with ESPN’s Tim Bontemps on systematic racism and his experiences in Boston in May 2021. While acknowledging that not every Celtics fan is racist, he emphasized the need for reform in areas such as the city’s financial discrepancy, educational inequality, and tokenism.
Brown has also received unfair criticism from supporters this season. The Celtics have been held to high standards in previous years, and after reaching the NBA Finals last season, the pressure is on. For much of the 2022-23 season, the club led the Eastern Conference, but it is presently two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks.
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Whether right or wrong, Boston has long been seen as the major American city where African Americans are not welcome. A striking photo taken by Stanley Forman in 1976 caught the nasty tension in Boston as a white man rushes at a black guy with the pointed end of a pole with the American flag during an anti-busing rally after public schools were ordered to desegregate. Four decades later, a nationwide study commissioned by The Boston Globe in 2017 found that black people ranked Boston as the least hospitable to persons of color among eight large cities.
So, during the 2016-17 season, Boston Celtics forward Marcus Smart was anticipating an easy trip home after a game when he encountered a passionate Celtics fan he will never forget. The mom was standing in the center of the crosswalk outside of TD Garden with her son when the signal for oncoming traffic turned green. To warn her, Smart honked his horn.
“I yell out the window,” Smart recalled. “ ‘Excuse me, ma’am, you better get out of the street before you and your son get hit. Cars are coming. I don’t want you to get hit.’
“As soon as I said that, she looked at me – as she is wearing a No. 4, green with the white outline Celtics jersey – and told me, ‘F— you, you f—ing n—–.’ People that actually heard her were stunned. They’re like, ‘That’s Marcus Smart. You just got done watching the game, ma’am … with an Isaiah Thomas jersey on.’ ”
Draymond Green, a Golden State Warriors veteran, too revealed his unfavorable experience with Boston supporters. Green recalls Boston supporters hurling racial comments at him and Stephen Curry during the 2022 NBA Finals, which the Celtics lost in six games to the Warriors. According to ESPN’s Kendra Andrews: “It took a while to adjust to it … it was just so unexpected. It caught me off guard.”
Even LeBron James has spoken out against Boston’s prejudice. During a July visit to HBO’s The Shop, James was asked, “Why do you hate Boston?” to which he responded, “Because they’re racist as f–k.”
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