Stevens Applauds Players’ Activism, Writes Letter of Support to His Team

BOSTON – Peaceful protests were held all across the United States this weekend in a collective effort to raise awareness for ongoing social injustice. Among those leading such protests were a handful of Celtics players, all of whom displayed a level of leadership that could never be attained solely on a basketball court.

Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours to Atlanta so that he could use his voice to help steer his hometown community in a positive direction. Meanwhile, Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams all took to the streets of Boston to let their words be heard.

To see such leadership coming from his players during a time of hardship was not surprising to Celtics coach Brad Stevens, but it made him incredibly proud, nonetheless.

"We want them to stand for what they believe in and we want to be supportive of that," Stevens said during a conference call with the media Tuesday morning.

“It’s so great to see so many guys so active," he continued. "The leadership that they've shown is terrific. And hopefully, the most important thing is that we can have short-term healing, we can have near-term gains and we can have long-term sustainable action that creates change.”

In order to create such change, Stevens believes that everyone must step in and get involved in some capacity. That’s why he wrote a heartfelt letter of support to his team this weekend.

“The thing that I wanted them to know is that every decent person is hurting, every decent person feels the pain of the African American community,” Stevens said. “But I also don't want to pretend like I know the exact distinct pain. And so, what I wanted them to know is that I'm with them.”

Stevens revealed that such support was mirrored by several of his peers the other day during a conference call with all 30 NBA head coaches.

“The one thing that I heard from a number of coaches was that as white coaches, we have a lot of responsibility here,” Stevens said. “We may not be able to know the depth of the pain of our colleagues that are black, or our players that are black, or our assistants that are black, but we have a responsibility to be not only empathetic but to help drive change.”

One of the first and most important steps in driving change, Stevens believes, is to simply open one’s ears.

“Being able to be a listener, hearing our players talk about profiling, talk about discrimination – being empathetic towards that, but also being able to acknowledge that I may not know the depth of that, but know I'm with you,” Stevens explained. “If you need me, I'm here and we've got a lot of people that are here, and we want to help.

“I think the pain that everybody feels has been there for a long, long time and the lack of progress is too jarring,” the coach added. “What we need to all do is do our part. And part of my responsibility in that is listening and learning.

One of the greatest role models that one can listen to and learn from on the topic of injustice is Brown. The 23-year-old displayed guidance and wisdom well beyond his years this past weekend, as he delivered passionate and eloquent speeches to his hometown community.

“Jaylen’s greatest impact, as good as he is a basketball, won't be in basketball,” Stevens stated. “I just think he's a special guy, he's a special leader. He's smart, but he has courage. He's got a lot of great stuff to him. I think we recognized that when we drafted him, but I think that he has been even more unbelievable every day, every year.

“I've always personally really enjoyed listening to him and talking to him about things outside of basketball," Stevens continued. "He told me he was going down there on Thursday, and I certainly am not surprised by him taking a leadership role. That's who he is.”

To an extent, that’s who many of the Celtics’ players are. They are more than just athletes; they are people with voices, people who desire to speak up for the justice that they and their fellow community members deserve.

Now is the time to listen.

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