Ahead of the Celtics-76ers game in London, Boston swingman Jaylen Brown gave an intensive interview to Donald McRae of British publication The Guardian.
Brown talked about racism in the U.S.:
“Racism definitely still exists in the South,” he says, remembering his youth in Marietta, Georgia. “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 [Donald] Trump has made it a lot more acceptable for racists to speak their minds.”
Brown praised former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his protests:
“[Kaepernick’s protesting] was peaceful and successful. It made people think. 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.”
Brown knew that Kaepernick was jeopardizing his career by speaking out:
I wasn’t shocked how it turned out. Colin was trying to get back into the NFL and find another team and he’s more than capable. But I knew it was over. I knew they weren’t going to let him back. Nobody wanted the media attention or to take the risk. They probably just wanted to blackball him out of the league.
“That’s the reality because sports is a mechanism of control. If people didn’t have sports they would be a lot more disappointed with their role in society. There would be a lot more anger or stress about the injustice of poverty and hunger. Sports is a way to channel our energy into something positive. Without sports who knows what half of these kids would be doing?
“We’re having some of the same problems we had 50 years ago. Some things have changed a lot but other factors are deeply embedded in our society. It takes protests like Kaepernick’s to make people uncomfortable and aware of these hidden injustices. People are now a lot more aware, engaged and united in our culture. It takes a special person like Kaepernick to force these changes – because often reporters and fans say: ‘If you’re an athlete I don’t want you to say anything. You should be happy you’re making x amount of money playing sport. You should be saluting America instead of critiquing it.’ That’s our society.”
Brown also spoke out against President Donald Trump, calling him “unfit to lead:”
I just think Trump’s character and some of his values makes him unfit to lead. For someone like him to be president, and in charge of our troops? It’s scary to be honest.”
Brown also opened up about the death of his best friend, Trevin Steede, who passed away the night before Brown led the Celtics to a victory over the Golden State Warriors:
“I met Trevin when I moved to Wheeler – which is a big basketball school in Marietta, Georgia. Trevin was a year older so he was a sophomore and I was a freshman. They brought me in and there was only one spot left on the team and it was between me and him. They gave it to me.
“I didn’t know anybody when I first got there so at lunch in the first week I’d eat by myself – acting like I’m on my phone. Trevin came up to me after the third day. I’d seen him in workouts but I didn’t really know him. He said, ‘Man, come sit over here with us.’ Ever since then, we were best friends.”
How did he hear about Trevin’s death? “His mom called me. I’m thinking she’s just checking on me or saying hi. But she called to tell me he’s passed.”
Brown looks down and his hurt is obvious. He also admits he needed the support of Steede’s mother to face Golden State. “I probably wouldn’t have played unless she called me. Brad Stevens [the Celtics coach] asked how I was doing. I told him, ‘I don’t think I’m able to come in today. He said: ‘That’s fine. Take your time.’ Three seconds after I hung up, Trevin’s mom called. I told her I wasn’t doing well and I probably wasn’t going to play that night. She said: ‘You know that’s not what I want and that’s not what Trevin would have wanted. So if you can find it in your heart to go out and play for him, do it.’”
Brown, 21, is in his second year with the Celtics. This season, he’s averaging 14.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from 3-point range.