Bill Russell will forever be one of NBA’s all-time greats. He was a champion in basketball and in life. He spent his entire 13-year career as a center with the Boston Celtics, winning 11 championships. Due to this incredible feat, the NBA named the Finals MVP trophy after him.
One of the most decorated players of his time, he used his popularity to fight against racism in the USA. Here’s everything you need to know about Russell’s activism.
Bill Russell as an activist
Aside from his successful basketball career, Bill Russell was also known for being a devoted activist. According to Andscape, Russell took advantage of his superstardom to fight racism and inequality. Russell believed it was his duty to leave the world a better place for those who came after him. He did this despite threats to his life and career.
The main reason why Russell felt the need to fight injustice is because he was one of the first Black players in the NBA. Russell was a polarizing figure and the Black community looked up to him. He paved the way for African-Americans to be more independent. Be it in sports, politics or just simply living a normal life.
According to Forbes, Russell joined Muhammad Ali as well-known African American sportsmen who continued to be ardent advocates for social justice. Because of their unwillingness to keep their lips sealed, much of the country couldn’t bear them.
During the height of his playing career in 1963, Bill Russell participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was offered a seat behind King on the stage, but he turned it down. Russell spoke to Black kids participating in a sit-in that year and publicly supported protests against segregation in Boston public schools.
None of his efforts came easy though. While struggling to fight racism, Russell was subjected to it himself. Hotels, restaurants and other service industries shut the door on him and his Black teammates. There is no doubt that Bill Russell is a true hero, withstanding all the hardships while winning 11 championships in the process.
Activism in the NBA today
It’s true that racism in America today isn’t as bad as before. However, just like what Kareem Adbul-Jabbar said, some racial slurs are slowly coming back. According to Blue Tent, a racial slur was sprayed on LeBron James’ home in 2017.
However, thanks to Bill Russell’s courage and bravery, NBA players of this generation aren’t afraid to stand up for justice. James is one of the most prominent athletes of his generation who speaks out on social concerns. James, former teammate Dwyane Wade, and other players have worn “I Can’t Breathe” clothing in the past to draw attention to the issue of police violence and change.
In fact, back in 2020 during the NBA bubble, players were wearing social justice messages on their jerseys. These players had phrases like “Black Lives Matter”, “I Can’t Breathe”, “Justice Now”, and “Enough” sewn on their jerseys. It was a heartwarming sight to see because we knew that they were no longer afraid to stand for what they believed in.
Credit: Source link