Boston (AP) — Bill Russell didn’t have to find his voice as an activist. He didn’t know the other way, but it was to speak his heart.
That’s why we made the best athlete in team sports one of the biggest champions of activists. His belief in equality and the stance he took helped athletes today pave the way.
Ren Elmore, who played for 10 seasons at the NBA, was a senior lecturer at Columbia University and taught athletes’ activities and social justice in sports, called Russell’s social contribution “immortal.”
“He showed in the game what many of us should be,” Elmore said.
Russell, who died on Sunday at the age of 88, was at the forefront of racial indignation before he acquired the skills to become the Boston Celtics, two-time Hall of Fame, and 11-time NBA champion of the Olympic gold medalist. I did. He grew up in the isolated Monroe, Louisiana, so he was tolerated by his parents.
He was groomed to be an apologetic thinker at a time when the Southern Jim Crow Law existed to silence the blacks’ views.
“I never worked to be liked or loved, but only to be respected,” Russell wrote in his 1966 book, Go Up For Glory. “I believe I can contribute to something much more important than just basketball.”
That belief is rooted in what his father Charles observed as a child in Louisiana, who worked for a paper bag company, in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Russell was with him one day at a gas station, ignoring them when the attendant was talking to a white man, and began servicing other cars that arrived afterwards.
Charles was trying to drive a car when a clerk pulled out his gun and said, “If you don’t want to be shot, don’t try it,” Russell recalled in his book. ..
His father responded by grabbing the iron of the tire and driving the man away.
Russell used his platform decades before Colin Capernick’s national anthem demonstration to raise awareness about police atrocities, or George Floyd’s 2020 post-mortem justice mass sports world. And hastened the citizenship.
That is why when Russell faced discrimination in his own form decades later, he did not hesitate to challenge the status quo.
One of the first examples was in 1961 when the Celtics were in Lexington, Kentucky for an exhibition game.
The team was at the hotel when teammate Sam Jones asked Satch Sanders to go to the lobby for food. They were denied service.
After that, I met Russell and KC Jones. After Sam told them what had happened, Russell suggested that no black player should participate in the game and informed Celtics coach Red Auerbach.
The game was canceled after two more players from the St. Louis Hawks joined the protest.
When former President Barack Obama presented Russell with the inside of his freedom in 2011, he called it an example of a way to “stand up for the rights and dignity of all.”
Russell not only risked damaging his reputation, but also endangered his life after the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. Just days after Evers was killed, Russell contacted the leader’s brother, Charles Evers. He wanted to ask what he could do to help.
Charles Evers asked him if he was willing to visit the state and perform the first integrated basketball camp. That was a big question, considering that Russell would endanger himself by visiting a member surrounded by the city of Ku Klux Klan. Still, Russell accepted the invitation.
“I didn’t want to go to Mississippi. I was like someone else. I was worried that I would be killed,” Russell wrote later. “Her wife asked me not to go. Some friends said the same. The man had to do what he thought was right. He called Eastern Air Lines. I ordered a ticket. “
Despite winning his third MVP award and fifth NBA title, the Celtics will have a Celtics that season if his continued presence in Mississippi and elsewhere can facilitate the promotion of civil rights. “Without hesitation,” he said he would have left the Celtics.
“If my popularity depends on something like this, I don’t care,” he said at the time.
Russell’s height star showed his willingness to put his beliefs in front of his athletic career, while joining small groups like Muhammad Ali, Ryu Arsindor (now Kareem Abdul Jabbar), and Jim Brown. ..
And it was Russell, Arsindor, and Brown, who were sitting beside Cleveland’s Ali in 1967, who announced that the boxers would refuse to lead them to the US military to fight the Vietnam War.
Celtics’ current star Jaylen Brown was one of the few young NBA players who used his own platform to raise awareness and participate in social justice protests, first “being more than a basketball player. It’s okay, “said Russell.
It reflected Russell’s writing in 1966 about how he wanted to be remembered.
“In the end, I live hoping that it will be carved for me when I die: Bill Russell. He was a man.”
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