Jaylen Brown didn’t wait to be asked a question at his press conference with members of the media Tuesday. Instead, Brown posed the first questions.
“The question I would like to ask is, does America think that black people or people of color are uncivilized, savages, or naturally unjust, or are we products of the environments that we participate in?” Brown said. “That’s the question I would like to ask America, and America has proven its answer over and over and over again. Are we not human beings? Is Jacob Blake not a human being?”
Brown spoke powerfully on racial injustice, centering his focus on the recent shooting of Blake, an unarmed black man who during a recent encounter with police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot at least seven times as he entered a vehicle with his three children in the car. Blake was partially paralyzed by a bullet that severed his spinal cord, according to public communication from his family and lawyers on Tuesday August 25.
Brown feels there is a narrative to use Blake’s personal past against him, which Brown wholeheartedly disagrees with as he is enraged to see another shooting like this occur.
“I don’t care if he did something 10 years ago, 10 days ago, or 10 minutes ago,” Brown said. “If he served his sentence and he was released back into society, he still deserves to be treated like a human and does not deserve to be shot in the back seven times with the intent to kill. His kids will never unsee that. His family will never unsee that. And frankly, I will never unsee it.”
And Brown feels he will be constantly reminded of Blake and those gun shots that were fired every time now when he looks at the back of his Boston Celtics jersey.
“I wear number 7 and now when I look at my jersey, all I see is a black man being shot seven times in the back,” Brown said.
Marcus Smart echoed Brown’s anger and frustration when discussing the shooting of Blake and having to go through an intolerable ordeal like this again.
“People are fed up, and it’s just sad that we’re still going through this and still fighting something that is so obvious,” Smart said. “Racism is the obvious factor that shouldn’t be there and we shouldn’t have to go through it, but yet we’re still going through it.”
"We haven't confirmed anything, but it's definitely something in the back of our minds we could plan on doing." - @smart_MS3 on if he or any players he knows will sit out games in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting. pic.twitter.com/yXaIzJduqP— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) August 25, 2020
Many NBA players entered the bubble in Orlando looking to use their elevated platform as a way to bring racial injustice to the forefront and bring about change. Players have knelt during the national anthem and spoke out on racial issues, including the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
But in light of the shooting of Blake, there is a feeling amongst players that more needs to be done. Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said his teammates discussed possibly boycotting Game 1 of its Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Celtics.
While Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who stood by his players and called the shooting of Blake “awful” and “horrifying,” said no players have informed him of their intentions not to play when Boston’s series with the Raptors starts Thursday.
But Smart said there’s been chatter about sitting out and didn’t rule out the possibility of players coming together to enact change on a larger scale.
“It’s been talked about, but we haven’t confirmed anything,” Smart said. “It’s definitely in the back of our minds to not play.”
Smart added: “Right now our focus shouldn’t really be on basketball. I understand it’s the playoffs ... but we still have a bigger underlying issue that’s going on. And the things that we’re trying haven’t been working. So we definitely need to use a different approach.”
8/25/20: This post was updated at 10:15 PM Pacific to reflect Jacob Blake’s injuries.