Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens offered staunch support for his players who peacefully protested racial injustices this past weekend and notably had the highest praise for Jaylen Brown, who made a 15-hour drive to his native Georgia to lead a protest in Atlanta.
"Jaylen’s greatest impact, as good as he is at basketball, won’t be in basketball,” said Stevens. "He’s a special guy, he’s a special leader. He’s smart but he has courage.
"He’s got a lot of great stuff to him, and I think we recognize that when we drafted him but I think that he has been even more unbelievable every day, every year. I’ve always personally really enjoyed listening to him and talking to him about things outside of basketball. He told me he was going down there on Thursday and, obviously, I certainly am not surprised by him taking a leadership role. That’s who he is.”
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Brown made the long drive, and then, with a Celtics cap on his head, megaphone in hand, and an “I Can’t Breathe” sign, peacefully led a march through Atlanta. Later, in a social media livestream, he noted, "Being a celebrity, being an NBA player, don't exclude me from no conversation at all. … We're raising awareness for some of the injustices that we've been seeing. It's not OK.”
Celtics teammates Marcus Smart, Vincent Poirier, and Enes Kanter all joined peaceful protests on Sunday in Boston. Stevens supported all of their efforts.
"I think it’s been great,” said Stevens. "I think, in paying attention from afar but also having individual conversations with everybody on our team and knowing, obviously, what’s happened has been appalling and been brutal and been hurtful and painful. I’ve said this many times, I think the NBA is amazing. I think our players are amazing. We’re lucky that we have such great people representing us with the Celtics. I can’t say enough good things.
Later Stevens added, "I couldn't be more proud to be in the NBA, to be with the Celtics and to be surrounded by the people I get to go to work with every day. All that they do, not only in front of the camera's eyes, but all that they do to lead for what's right is really impressive. I'm just honored to be a part of that team of those guys. We do talk about the idea of real leadership, right?
A lot of people can be followed and sometimes, people mislead and divide and do things in their own self-interests. The real leaders unite people and are doing things to simply promote what is right. I think that our guys are amazing in that regard and I think that extends throughout the players and coaches all across the league. It's a real inspiring group to be around.