Beyond the court: Celtics’ Jaylen Brown fights for social justice

BOSTON — He’s just been named an NBA All-Star for the second time.

And he’s helped lead the Boston Celtics to a league-best record so far this 2022-23 season. But Jaylen Brown’s passions extend far beyond the basketball court. The Celtics’ guard has made a name for himself as an outspoken social justice activist, though he admits speaking out isn’t always easy.

Boston 25 News Anchor Kerry Kavanaugh sat down one-on-one with Brown about how he’s using his platform as an athlete and the change he’s hoping to inspire.

They recently met up in Boston at an event for his latest community project. Brown is teaming up with Red Bull to revamp the basketball court in Dorchester at the Fenelon St. Playground, using designs submitted by members of the community.

Jaylen Brown was the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft after he played on year at the University of California, Berkley. He was just 19 years old when he named was called.

“I scared was here when I first got here,” Jaylen Brown told Kavanaugh. “When I first got here, my first introduction, they kind of like, booed me. The weather, the lack of familiarity, the reputation, you know, everything that you could think that was going through my head at the time.”

But in the 7 years since Brown, a kid from Marietta, Georgia, was a first-round draft pick, a lot has changed.

“How do you feel about the city now,” Kavanaugh asked.

“My friends, they come in town, they talk about Boston. I mean, Boston’s is this and that and I find myself defending,” Brown said. “As I got integrated into the community, I met a lot of people who live in Boston who, you know, do a lot of great things.”

And he hopes he’s considered among them.

He is an outspoken advocate for social justice and educational reform. In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, Brown drove 15 hours to his home state of Georgia to lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta.

Brown recently launched the 7uice Foundation. The spelling reflects his favorite number 7, the number he wears on his jersey.

Brown says his foundation will begin by offering a bridge to educational opportunities to kids from underserved communities, particularly in STEAM education.

“Clearly you do so much more than that job on the court,” Kavanaugh said. “Why is that? Not everybody takes it to the level that you do.”

“I just I look at it as a responsibility,” Brown said. “Athletes in general, entertainers, you know, are so influential. And I just think the power in that is amazing to be able to use that for positivity and to uplift a community or be a voice for the voiceless. Not just to show up to places and, you know, receive praise or to be put on a pedestal, but to use your voice.”

“I don’t imagine it’s always easy,” Kavanaugh said.

“No, it’s not. Especially not here in Boston,” Brown said. “At times you get a lot of pushback.”

“What do you mean by that,” Kavanaugh asked.

“There [are] certain people who will want to change the world and then there’s certain people, okay well, the world is, you know, currently going right now like it’s comfortable for them. And I like to challenge people’s comfort,” Brown said.

“So, when it is hard, when you’re getting negative feedback what powers you to keep going and speaking your mind and fighting for what you believe,” Kavanaugh asked.

“The youth. The next generation,” Brown said. “They’ve got to deal with inequalities in education. They might have to deal with unfair treatment or biased treatment in policing. Hopefully by me using my platform, I can alleviate it, you know, not just for myself, but for those people to be able to shine.”

You cannot talk about social justice and the Boston Celtics and not mention the iconic Bill Russell. After the civil rights pioneer passed away in August, it was Jaylen Brown who led the tribute to Russell during the Celtics first game of the season.

Kavanaugh asked Brown what it’s like to walk in Russell’s path.

“I don’t think anybody could follow or fill the shoes of Bill Russell, but it was a different time,” Brown said. “Bill Russell was a special human being and I couldn’t compare myself or anyone to him. It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same name, but undeserved, as of yet.”

“What do you hope your legacy is here in Boston,” Kavanaugh asked.

“When they think of Jaylen Brown, they think of one, an athlete that transcended what it means to be an athlete.

When people see me or hear my name, hopefully that he made this world a better place.”

Brown says he hopes he’s creating a blueprint for social justice activism that other athletes can follow. The renovation of the Dorchester basketball court breaks ground in April. They hope to open it by this summer.

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