Celtics legend Bill Russell delivers poignant statement after attending protest with his wife
One of the major faces of NBA history, Boston Celtics legendary center Bill Russell commented on the state of the U.S. after attending one of the widespread protests ongoing across the nation in response to the unjust death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
Russell, 86, became one of the first black stars in the NBA and finished his career as an 11-time champion with the Celtics during their 1960s dynasty. The legendary big man wrote a powerful message on his official Twitter page after attending a protest with his wife, noting how “nothing had changed” since the days when he encountered racism as a player:
My wife took me to see some of the #protests she said it was emotional & impactful & asked Can U believe U would live through this again in your lifetime? I said Yes, nothing had changed & we will see some change but most likely not enough #GeorgeFloyd @MSNBC @nba @BostonGlobe pic.twitter.com/ophnSYNfgc
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) June 4, 2020
Russell also attached a clip from a newspaper detailing his own social justice advocacy back in 1964 — the middle of a tumultuous decade, which saw men and women in the U.S. standing up for civil rights and attacked by white supremacy. (Sound familiar?)
Russell, along with his greatness on the basketball court, endured more than a lifetime’s worth of injustice and racism during his playing days, as he traveled with the Celtics and dealt with poor accommodations dating back to his college days at San Francisco while traveling around the country, particularly in a segregated South. Russell became a key icon and figure as a black athlete standing up for civil rights and justice during his time as a professional, potentially endangering himself and his career.
Russell appeared alongside prominent athletes of the time like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jim Brown at the Cleveland Summit, which occurred on this date in 1967. Russell supported the boxer, born Cassius Clay, who decided not to serve in the Vietnam War.
The life and legacy of Russell still touches all of us to this day, and the Celtics legend’s presence at a protest this week further connects the struggle for civil rights and justice for people of color for 50 years going on 400.