BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics won a thrilling game over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. It was a game that almost didn’t happen, with players frustrated by what they saw throughout the day on Wednesday.
Basketball was not the focus of Boston’s two young stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, following Wednesday’s win. There was no mention of the game they had just played when they addressed the media together, with the victory taking a backseat to what is much more important to the duo.
The change they have fought for over the last year (and beyond) has not occurred, and the young stars are frustrated. As they watched the scene at the U.S. Capitol play out, with supporters of President Trump storming the Capitol building, they couldn’t help but notice how divided the country still remains.
“It reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King has said, that there is two different split Americas,” said Brown. “In one America you get killed by sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in your backyard. And then in another America, you get to storm the Capitol and no tear gas, no massive arrests, none of that.
“So I think it’s obvious, it’s 2021, I don’t think anything has changed,” Brown continued. “We want to still acknowledge that. We want to still push for the change that we’re looking for. But as of yet, we have not seen it. We want to continue to keep conversations alive and do our part.”
The Celtics left the floor prior to Wednesday night’s tipoff and went to the locker room for a players-only meeting to discuss the riots in Washington D.C. There was talk about not playing, and head coach Brad Stevens said that he called his wife and told her that he didn’t think the game was going to happen.
It was a similar scene as the one that played out in Orlando in August following the Jacob Blake shooting, when the Celtics and the Raptors discussed not playing Game 1 of their playoff series. The NBA ended up postponing the postseason when the Bucks and the Magic decided not to play the night prior, and players threatened to cancel the bubble altogether to fight for change.
But as the league decided in Orlando, the Celtics decided that they could better display their message by playing.
“It was heavy on our hearts. Unfortunately we continue to be in the same situation. We had an open space in the locker room whether we were going to play or not, similar to the bubble. It’s 2021 and we kind of continue to find ourselves in the same situation,” said Tatum. “We’re not surprised by what we see on TV. It’s the world we live in. I just feel like the same energy should be kept as when we see our people peacefully protesting for things, that we see our people getting murdered on TV and videos. And they’re protesting the Capitol, or rioting the Capitol for losing an election. It’s two different things, and I want the same energy on TV to be, ‘they’re thugs’ and ‘they’re criminals.’ The same terms that they use when they see our people protesting for losing our lives.
“I think it’s bigger than basketball, it’s bigger than the game today. But us going on the court on national TV could shed more light than not playing,” said Tatum.
Both the Celtics and the Heat took a knee during the national anthem prior to Wednesday’s game. Now, they’re hoping to turn their anger into something positive.
“We’re men, fathers. members of our community. Whenever they hurt, we want to continue to be a voice for the voice-less,” said Brown. “Sports is often used as a way to lift people up and spread joy, and that’s the decision we came out here today with. Hopefully we got the win and spread some joy.”
“We can play the game, but when we get asked questions we can shed light and talk about what we want to express,” said Tatum. “Unfortunately I think that’s going to have to continue until we see change.”
“Using this platform we have is important to us. We are role models and members of our communities,” added Brown. “We do have people looking up to us. We want the next generation to know where we stand, we want the next generation to know that hopefully it’s better than this one. We want to continue to keep those conversations alive. We want to compartmentalize, but we want to voice our opinions through the media, through our influence to let people know that this is not OK. There are people who lost their lives who we felt shouldn’t have based on the situation. Deadly force should be the last result in terms of solving an equation or problem.
“We’ve seen too many people lose their lives on TV and explaining it to our nieces and nephews, it’s hard looking at them and telling them it’s going to change. And it’s not,” said Brown. “As athletes, our responsibility is more than just being a basketball player. We’re not here to just entertain and go home. Let’s try to use our platforms for good and inspire change.
“It’s OK to be upset and it’s OK to be angry. I think those two get confused. We expressed ourselves through basketball today, winning the game. I think America has every right to be upset. We don’t want to encourage violence or anything of that nature, but we are definitely tired of seeing the same things over and over again,” continued Brown. “We want to continue to use our platform. We want to keep inspiring change, and I want to believe that we’re doing the right thing.”