Tatum and Brown driving force for Celtics on and off the court
It was only fitting that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown gathered to speak to the media in unison. They have been the driving force behind the Boston Celtics’ success this season which includes a 107-105 win over the Miami Heat in which the dynamic duo combined for 48 points.
But as much as they have been the engine for success this season for the Celtics (6-3), they have also been a driving force for change; the kind of change that goes far beyond rebounds, assists and Tommy Points.
No, these two are about scoring points in other ways such as keeping the focus on the some of the social justice issues that were the hallmark of their time in the Orlando Bubble to close out the 2019-2020 season.
Back then, they were among the more vocal and outspoken players when it came to talking about increasing civic engagement (voting) among the Black community and other disenfranchised groups.
And they were among the leaders to speak out and lead the Celtics in walking off the court on Wednesday night along with the Miami Heat, only to return.
This was not an empty gesture, but a reminder to all of how quickly something that so many love - like the game of basketball or a family member - can be taken away quickly.
That is the feeling that both Brown and Tatum share with so many Americans right now who are hurting in this country over a clear an undeniable divide that seems to be even wider as time passes.
Wednesday was indeed the worst of times with a mob of protestors storming the Nation’s Capitol building to oppose the official certification of Joe Biden as the President of the United States.
As the Celtics noted in a statement prior to the start of Wednesday’s game, there was a stark contrast in the treatment by police officials of the mob of protestors who stormed the Capitol building which involved the shattering of windows and the vandalizing of the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, in comparison to previous protests by groups that had a more racially diverse composition.
“It reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King (Jr.) said. In one America you get killed while sleeping in your car, smoking cigarettes or playing in your backyard,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “In another America, you get to storm the Capitol; no tear gas, no mass arrests. None of that; it’s obvious. It’s 2021 and I don’t think anything has changed.”
While disappointed, both players are not dismayed or deterred as they remain committed to leading the social changes that they envision going forward.
“We want to continue to keep conversations alive and do our part,” Brown said.
But first they had to as a team, decide if playing on Wednesday was something they wanted to do considering all that was happening around them.
The mob of protesters that stormed the Capitol building came less than 24 hours after Kenosha, Wisc. officials determined that no charges would be brought against the officer that shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back.
“We had an open space in the locker room to discuss these things, whether we would play or not,” Tatum said. “Similar to the Bubble. We continue to find ourselves in the same situation … it’s tough because we’re not surprised by what we see on TV. It’s just the world we live in.”
While Tatum and Brown understand that is where things stand now on many levels, by no means have they embraced or accepted that things won't change.
There are several factors that will come into play in order to bring about tangible change, including leadership which is something head coach Brad Stevens believes is a key contributor to the problems that ail this country right now and how that should improve very soon.
“We all hope that the people we elect to lead us are supposed to be modeling leadership, will do so in a way that’s motivated by serving others,” Stevens said. “By showing compassion, by acting gracefully. And instead, we elected a president (Donald J. Trump in 2016) who luckily is on his way out, and others, that have not shown that kind of grace. It’s been consistent; they operated in a win at all cost attitude. I always thought if you operate with a win at all cost attitude, it’s gonna be a pretty unfulfilling ending. And in this situation, a disgraceful ending. And so I’m looking forward to two weeks from now as I know a lot of other people are too.”
Stevens was referring to Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
Biden’s efforts to pivot away from the Trump years got a boost from the two run-off senatorial elections in Georgia, both of which were won by Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. In doing so, the Senate is now comprised of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, but Democrats have control with the tie-breaking vote going to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
This is a moment when Jaylen Brown should be basking in the glory of his home state of Georgia delivering a pair of senatorial wins that will help shape the future not only of his home state but the entire country. Brown was among the many NBA players in the Bubble that pushed for increased civic engagement among his community in Georgia, and the country as a whole.
The senatorial wins in Georgia was the payoff.
But the events in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and the officer in Jacob Blake’s shooting not being charged, certainly put a damper on that.
But again, both Tatum and Brown refuse to allow in-the-moment disappointment to deter them from continuing to address and speak out on social justice issues.
“I think about our history, all the people that came before us that sacrificed their lives in a much bigger way so that myself and him (Brown) have opportunities to live out our dream,” Tatum said. “That doesn’t go unnoticed. That should be talked about more. We have to carry that on any way we can. We’re role models, more than just basketball players. And our platform is huge. It would be wrong if we didn’t take advantage of that, the opportunities that we have. And just to speak for all those people who don’t have voices, we share the same emotions and feelings that they’re feeling.”
Brown added, “We want the next generation to … hopefully be better than this one. We want to continue to keep those conversations alive. We want to compartmentalize (our emotions) but at the same time, we want to voice our opinions through the media, through our platforms and let people know, ‘this is not OK.’ There’s people that have lost their lives that we feel shouldn’t have lost their lives regardless of the situation. Deadly force should be the last result in terms of handling an equation or a problem. That’s where we stand on it. We’ve seen too many people on camera losing their lives and we have to explain that to our nieces and nephews. And it’s hard looking at them and telling them it’s gonna change. As athletes our responsibility is more than just being a basketball player. We’re not here to just entertain and go home. We’re members of our community … let’s try and use our platforms for good and inspire some great change.”