Side-by-Side, Brown and Tatum Deliver Extraordinary Moment of Leadership

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum stood side-by-side Wednesday night and delivered an extraordinary moment of leadership at the end of a horrific day in America. They voiced truths and frustrations, as well as feelings of sorrow and despair. They spoke not as basketball players, but instead as Americans.

It was less than an hour after they and the Boston Celtics defeated the defending Eastern Conference-champion Miami Heat in a game that was nearly not played. The two teams discussed earlier in the night the option of boycotting the contest in response to riots in Washington, D.C., which resurfaced the continuance of racial bias and injustice in America.

“It’s 2021,” said Brown, “and I don’t think anything has changed.”

The teams decided to play the game with the intention of preserving their platform on such an important and historical day. Brown’s and Tatum’s dual press conference served as their opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless amid such disheartening events.

Earlier in the day, the United States was served a bitter reminder of the continuance of social and racial inequality within its borders, following the US Capitol building being overrun by rioters who, sadly, refused to accept the truth that their 2020 presidential nominee lost the election.

The scene in the nation’s capital was genuinely terrifying. A riot spilled into the halls of the Capitol building via shattered windows and broken doors. Security officers were overrun. Private offices were raided, some of which were vandalized. Items were stolen. Senators and members of Congress were evacuated under emergency circumstances. One of the insurgents was shot and she and at least three others have died.

Rioters who claimed to be seeking to maintain the ideals and freedoms of America were instead committing acts of domestic terrorism on one of the country’s most historic buildings. As Brown later asked in a tweet, what’s more un-American than that?

The actions of these rioters led to President-elect Joe Biden stating during a speech, “Our democracy is under unprecedented assault.”

And while democracy itself was being attacked, many Americans – the majority of whom are minorities – were reminded of the double-standards that continue to exist on all levels within this nation.

Months ago, certain authorities across the country denounced peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors who were merely seeking to end social injustice and inequality. Troops, armed with tear gas and rubber bullets, were dispersed with the intention of putting a swift end to the protests. The results were disturbing.

Some died. Many were injured. Even more were arrested. All of this occurred despite the fact that many of the afflicted people were peacefully and lawfully protesting for human and social rights – a right which every American possesses.

Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon and thousands descended upon the Capitol and threatened the safety of the nation’s most important elected officials. This group literally assaulted democracy and broke scores of laws in the process.

Yet, by any standard given the circumstances, minimal force was largely used to dispel the law-breaking citizens from the private halls of the Capitol. These obvious actions of inequality inflicted immediate trauma upon those who have been oppressed for generations.

“It reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King said, that there’s two split-different Americas,” Brown stated. “In one, you get killed by sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in the backyard. And then in another America, you get to storm the Capitol and no tear gas, no massive arrests, none of that. I think it’s obvious.”

Tatum then dove into his belief, which is shared by many others, that the overpowering forces that were used against many legal Black Lives Matter demonstrators who sought to discontinue their oppression should have instead been reserved for a scenario such as Wednesday’s at the Capitol building. This was an event during which rioters caused havoc on private government property merely because their presidential candidate failed to earn enough votes to extend his presidency.

“I just feel like the same energy should be kept when we see our people peacefully protesting about things like: we see our people getting murdered on TV and live and in videos,” said Tatum. “And they’re protesting in the Capitol – or rioting in the Capitol – for losing an election. It’s two different things.”

In either case, Brown is of the belief that a response should be as safe and as appropriate as possible.

“I think deadly force should be the last resort in terms of handling an equation or a problem, and that’s where we stand on it,” Brown stated. “I think that we’ve seen too many people, on camera, losing their lives, and we have to explain that to our nieces, our nephews, and it’s hard looking at them and telling them that it’s gonna change, and it’s not. So we just want to continue having those conversations.”

Which is the only reason why Brown, Tatum, the rest of the Celtics and the Miami Heat chose to take the court for their game Wednesday night.

These teams have been here before, just months ago in August inside the NBA bubble following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After great consideration, both within the Celtics and league-wide among players, coaches and staff members, the Celtics and their peers decided to boycott their games that day.

They made a statement with their boycott, and then returned to action because they wanted to speak to as many ears as possible. And they did. They relayed the truths and frustrations around the injustices that continue to occur in America, and the feelings of sorrow and despair that come along with it.

Those same reasons came into play again Wednesday night, when Boston and Miami decided to take the court.

“We want to compartmentalize, but at the same time we want to voice our opinions through the media, through our platforms, through our influence, to let people know, like, this is not OK,” Brown said. “There’s people that have lost their lives that we feel like shouldn’t have lost their lives, regardless of the situation.”

Tatum added, “We’re role models, more than just basketball players, and our platform is huge. And it would be wrong if we didn’t take advantage of that with the opportunities that we have, and just to speak for all of the people that don’t have voices like we do that share the same emotions and feelings that we’re feeling.”

Those emotions and feelings are raw. They hadn’t healed since the shooting of Blake in late-August, and Wednesday was a bitter reminder of just how much work remains to be done in order for the United States of America to actually become united.

That’s why Brown and Tatum stood side-by-side Wednesday night and spoke as inspirational leaders. They are pushing for a better America, one which will not tolerate injustice, one which will not tolerate inequality, and one which will not tolerate rioters who assault the very foundation upon which America was built.

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