Seeing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown standing together for a joint press conference after the Boston Celtics’ win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night was a powerful moment.
The two faces of the Celtics franchise fielded zero basketball questions but once again used their voices to demand social justice. This in the aftermath of news that no charges would be brought against officers in the Jacob Blake shooting, and just hours after rioters stormed the halls of Congress.
It was a reminder that as good as the Jays have been on the court this season -- and they’ve been exceptional -- they continue to be even better off of it.
Displaying a grace well beyond their years, the Celtics stars yet again tackled tough topics with poise, and used their platform to continue making a plea for progress that has been frustratingly slow to come.
Celtics fans have a lot of reasons to be excited about the future of the franchise in large part because of the way that both Tatum and Brown have blossomed into All-Star talents. But watching the way this duo has emerged as powerful voices in the quest for social justice is something that should make fans feel even better about the direction of the team.
“I think it’s obvious: It’s 2021, I don’t think anything has changed,” said Brown. "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.”
Added Tatum: “I think it’s bigger than basketball, it’s bigger than the game today. But I think that the statement of us talking about it, us going on the court on national TV could shed more light than us not playing. And that’s what we talked about in the locker room.”
The Celtics, as an organization, have put great thought into all of their decisions since entering the bubble this past summer. Boston and Miami players huddled before Wednesday’s game and pondered the possibility of postponing play but ultimately decided to utilize the platform the game provided to accentuate their message of change.
The teams released a joint statement which read:
"2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed. We play tonight’s game with a heavy heart after yesterday’s decision in Kenosha, and knowing that protesters in our nation’s capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on. The drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today’s protestors who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.
“We have decided to play tonight’s game to try to bring joy into people’s lives. But we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal and just America.”
Before the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens didn’t mask his frustration with our country’s leadership in Washington. He punctuated his thoughts on Wednesday’s events at the Capitol by dubbing it, "a disgraceful ending. And so I'm looking forward to two weeks from now [when Joe Biden will be sworn in as president], as other people are, too.”
Stevens and the Celtics have recognized that basketball needs to be secondary at times given the events of recent months. They’ve somehow managed to focus on their vocation when they do step between the lines. To be able to balance it all is remarkable.
But Tatum and Brown are remarkable people and remarkable leaders.
“Using this platform that we have is important to us,” said Brown. "We are role models, we are members of our community, we do have people looking up to us, and 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.
"So we want to continue to keep those conversations alive. We want to compartmentalize but, at the same time, we want to voice our opinions through the media, through our platforms, through our influence to let people know this is not OK.
"There’s people that have lost their lives that we feel like shouldn't have lost their lives, regardless of the situation. We think deadly force should be the last result in terms of handling an equation or a problem. That's what we stand on. I think that we see so many people on camera, losing their lives and we have to explain that to our nieces or nephews, and it's hard looking at them and telling them that it’s going to change. And then it's not. So we want to just continue to keep having those conversations.
"As athletes, our responsibility is more than just being a basketball player. We're not here to just entertain and then go home. We are members of our community. Members of St. Louis or Duke or whatever and you got people that are watching and looking up, so let's try to use our platforms for good and inspire some great change.”