Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown on Tuesday became the latest NBA player to speak out against Donald Trump, saying that the President “has made it a lot more acceptable for racists to speak their minds” and that his “character and some of his values” make him “unfit to lead.”
Brown, whose Celtics are overseas for Thursday’s NBA London Game against the Philadelphia 76ers, discussed Trump and racism in America — from his personal experiences growing up in Marietta, Georgia to the current state of the country — in a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian.
“Racism definitely still exists in the South,” Brown said. “I’ve experienced it through basketball. I’ve had people call me the n-word. I’ve had people come to basketball games dressed in monkey suits with a jersey on. I’ve had people paint their face black at my games. I’ve had people throw bananas in the stands.
“Racism definitely exists across America today. Of course it’s changed a lot — and my opportunities are far greater than they would have been 50 years ago. So some people think racism has dissipated or no longer exists. But it’s hidden in more strategic places. You have less people coming to your face and telling you certain things. But Trump has made it a lot more acceptable for racists to speak their minds.”
Brown, the No. 3 overall pick in 2016 draft, attended the University of California, and has stood out, both on and off the court, since stepping into the national spotlight.
On the court, he’s one of the NBA’s most gifted young players. He’s an elite athlete, a plus defender, and he’s taken a significant step forward in his second season to become a key contributor for a Celtics team sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Off the court, Brown was deemed “too smart” for the NBA by an unnamed executive before the draft, per The Undefeated — a label he told The Guardian hinted at “something very problematic within society.” He’s an avid chess player. He taught himself how to play the piano. He took a graduate-level course, and wrote a 20-page paper on how institutionalized sport impacts America’s education system, as a freshman.
“There’s this idea of America that some people have to win and some have to lose so certain things are in place to make this happen,” Brown said. “Some people have to be the next legislators and political elites and some have to fill the prisons and work in McDonald’s. That’s how America works. It’s a machine which needs people up top, and people down low.
“Even though I’ve ended up in a great place, who is to say where I would’ve been without basketball? It makes me feel for my friends. And my little brothers or cousins have no idea how their social mobility is being shaped. I wish more and more that I can explain it to them. Just because I’m the outlier in my neighborhood who managed to avoid the barriers set up to keep the privileged in privilege, and the poor still poor, why should I forget about the people who didn’t have the same chance as me?”
Brown touched on Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests as well, which he described as both “peaceful and successful.”
“It made people think,” Brown said. “It made people angry. It made people want to talk. Often everybody is comfortable with their role in life and they forget about the people who are uncomfortable. So for Colin to put his career on the line, and sacrifice himself, was amazing. But Colin was fed up with the police brutality and pure racism. He speaks for many people in this country — including me.”