Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown talks free agency, activism and Kanye West
Celtics center Al Horford recalled NBA game speed was “really, really fast” for Brown in his rookie season in 2016-17. But now “he fully understands what he has to do on the pitch,” Horford said.
Brown made his second all-star team this season, and his career-best 26.8 points per game put him among the top scorers. He could be a free agent after next season, but he said he’s not thinking about it yet. “I was able to make many connections in the city, meet many amazing families who have dedicated their lives to issues of change,” he said.
Brown, who is black, has spoken publicly about racism in Boston, where about half the population is white and about a quarter is black. In 2015, a shock study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston estimated that black households in the Boston area had median wealth close to zero, while the figure for white households was $247,500. “The wealth disparity in Boston is ridiculous,” Brown said.
What was your experience as a black professional athlete in Boston?
There are multiple experiences: as an athlete, as a basketball player, as a civilian, as someone trying to start a business, as someone trying to do things in the community.
There’s not a lot of room for people of color, black entrepreneurs, to come in and start a business.
I think my experience there was not as smooth as I thought it would be.
What do you mean?
Even as an athlete, you would think you have some leverage to be able to have experiences, to be able to have things that open doors a little easier. But even though I am who I am, trying to start a business, trying to buy a house, trying to do certain things, you encounter adversity.
Other athletes spoke about the negative way fans treated black athletes while playing in Boston. Have you experienced this?
I have, but I block just about everything. It’s not the whole Celtic fanbase, but it’s part of the fanbase that exists within the Celtic nation that’s problematic. If you have a bad game, they link it to your personal character.
I really think there’s a group or amount within the Celtic nation that’s extremely toxic and doesn’t want to see athletes using their platform, or they just want you to play basketball and have fun and you were going home. And that’s a problem for me.
Erik Moore, the founder of venture capital firm Base Ventures, mentored Brown through college after Brown interned at his company. He said Brown has always been focused on social justice. “It’s not new, it’s not shocking, it’s not weird,” Moore said. “It’s just who he is.”
In April 2020, Brown wrote an op-ed for The Guardian decrying the societal inequalities revealed by the coronavirus pandemic. The following month, he donated $1,000 to the political action committee Grassroots Law, which, according to its website, fights “to end oppressive policing, incarceration and injustice.” Weeks later, Brown drove 15 hours to Atlanta from Boston to protest the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.