One of the biggest revelations of this year in the NBA was how Jaylen Brown, the 24-year-old Celtics wing just starting his second contract, took on a more sizable role in the players’ association, as well as a voice of leadership around the league more broadly. It was no surprise then when GQ decided to profile Brown, or that Brown was brutally honest in the interview.
The whole story contains incredible nuggets from Brown and is worth reading, but one part sticks out most if you’re an NBA fan keeping track of Brown from afar. When asked about the social justice initiatives and overall activism from the league in 2020 and beyond, Brown responded that it can’t stop now.
Via Michael Pina of GQ:
“I think the NBA needs to make that a lifestyle,” he says. “It’s getting harder and harder for us to accept and entertain people who feed into our demise and then go back and look in the face of our communities and not hear their tears. Not see the struggle that they deal with every day and not want to help.”
Brown’s inability to not say what he’s thinking gets revealed a few times during our conversation. He’s not afraid of conflict. At one point, I casually refer to civil rights—a term that Brown evidently objects to, particularly that first part.
“Civility is what we were asking for in the past,” says Brown. “I think civility is settling for less. And I think we need to change that energy.”
Many will remember that Brown was in the streets protesting much of the summer, including driving from Boston down to Atlanta by himself to be part of marches in the southern city. Brown also was and remains among the key voices in the union and, as writer Pina outlines in this story, a leader in the aftermath of Jacob Blake’s shooting as the NBA determined a course forward.
The NBA’s partner league, the WNBA, has long made activism core to its mission, and this season upped the ante to full-blown political organizing and collective action. Perhaps the NBA has more roadblocks to doing the same, but if Brown believes it, you can bet it will be heard around the league.