Celtics guard Jaylen Brown missed the end of the 2020-2021 NBA season with a torn ligament in his left wrist, and he was summarily sidelined as his team was bounced in the first round of the playoffs. However, that did not silence him when it came to his thoughts about changes needed in the front office, namely a new head coach.
In June, Brad Stevens was promoted from his post as the team’s head coach and took over the role of Celtics president for Danny Ainge. Both men are white, so questions abounded as to if another white man would replace Stevens or would a person of color be considered for the position. Ime Udoka, who is Nigerian-American, was eventually named as the Celts head coach, and Brown spoke on the importance of Udoka’s selection for the job.
“Whether it was because they were just trying to shut us up, or because they actually believed it was the right thing to do, it don’t matter to me,” the 2021 All-Star told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears. “That representation is important. And that’s giving people access and resources that they need and deserve to have, especially former players. They deserve to have a seat at the table too, especially in coaching positions, as well as in-office positions, ownership positions. Those are important as well, especially if they’re qualified.”
According to Statista, at least 74% of players in the NBA have been Black since 2010, yet 21 teams had white head coaches compared to seven teams with African-American head coaches. And as you move further up the ladder, the disparity in numbers becomes starker. Throughout all 30 teams, there was only one Black president as of last August: Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors, who helped lead the organization to its first championship in 2019.
“That’s my argument,” Brown continued in his interview. “People may disagree, like, ‘They’re not qualified. They’re just getting the job because they’re African American.’ You’ve seen people say that in the media. And things like that. That’s some [expletive]. There’s plenty of qualified African Americans and Black people that can do their job. And they deserve to have a seat at the table.”
Brown has been known for his beliefs in social justice since his college days at UC Berkeley, and he became one of the league’s leading voices at the height of the BLM movement during the 2020 “bubble season.” But he also doesn’t want the fight for change to stop only because it’s no longer cool.
“… I’ve seen a lot of people that didn’t care,” he shared with Spears. “I felt like we’re posting things on social media just because that was what was popular at the time. They were following the trend… And just because it’s no longer a trend doesn’t mean real work isn’t getting done.”
Nevertheless, Brown is still getting ready to return to the Celts this year and help his team pursue its 17th world title. “I got to continue to push and work,” he admitted, “but I’m excited to be there for camp. And I’m excited to be there with my teammates, and start to build, and start this journey, man.”