Ex-Celtic Paul Pierce Recalls Boston Racism: ‘Nothing but Positive’

Paul Pierce had a moment with Jaylen Brown on the court before the Celtics took on the Kings in Sacramento on Tuesday night.

“I just said, ‘What’s up?’ and told him I was coming to Boston this weekend,” Pierce said. “I told him we’d probably grab a bite or something.”

The former Celtics captain will be very interested to hear what Brown has to say if the conversation veers away from basketball. Pierce told Heavy Sports he has read some of Brown’s comments from recent published interviews with The Ringer and New York Times and would just like to better understand and lend a sympathetic ear.

(In the interest of clarity, we won’t paraphrase or abridge any of Brown’s responses.)

Asked by the Times about his experience as a Black professional athlete in Boston, Brown is quoted as saying. “There’s multiple experiences: as an athlete, as a basketball player, as a regular civilian, as somebody who’s trying to start a business, as someone who’s trying to do things in the community.

“There’s not a lot of room for people of color, Black entrepreneurs, to come in and start a business.

“I think that my experience there has been not as fluid as I thought it would be.”

Asked what he meant by that, Brown said, “Even being an athlete, you would think that you’ve got a certain amount of influence to be able to have experiences, to be able to have some things that doors open a little bit easier. But even with me being who I am, trying to start a business, trying to buy a house, trying to do certain things, you run into some adversity.”

The Times noted that other athletes “have spoken about the negative way that fans have treated Black athletes while playing in Boston,” and asked if Brown had experienced that.

“I have, but I pretty much block it all out,” he replied. “It’s not the whole Celtic fan base, but it is a part of the fan base that exists within the Celtic nation that is problematic. If you have a bad game, they tie it to your personal character. I definitely think there’s a group or an amount within the Celtic nation that is extremely toxic and does not want to see athletes use their platform, or they just want you to play basketball and entertain and go home. And that’s a problem to me.”

‘My Time Was Nothing But Positive’

Pierce made a point to not diminish Brown’s feelings or anything he may have encountered. When then asked the general question of whether it’s difficult for a Black player in Boston, Pierce said, “I mean, it depends on their lifestyle, man. You know what I’m saying? Like, where he hangs out, who he talks to. I don’t know what Jaylen has been through in the city. Obviously everybody is going to have their own experience, you know, and what they go through. So I don’t know what he’s experienced off the court, on the court, what he’s going through. So it really is hard for me to speak on what his mindset is, because he’s probably been through some stuff that I’ve never been through living in the city.

“My time there was nothing but positive. I never had to experience no racism or nothing in the city. Shoot, I mean, I’m going into restaurants getting standing ovations. You know, I’m eating free meals.”

The “nothing but positive” portion of his answer obviously ignores the 2000 incident in which Pierce was stabbed at a Boston club, but he explained it was not a racially motivated attack.

Regarding Brown’s obstacles in business and purchasing a house, Pierce said, “I didn’t encounter that stuff.

“You’ve got to understand the racism don’t start and end in Boston. It doesn’t stop when you leave Boston. If you think it’s not there in other cities, you got something else coming, because the same thing that happened in Boston can happen in D.C. or somewhere else.

“And if you want to do the real history on the Celtic franchise and what the organization has done, you know, Boston is the first organization in the sports world to have Black players as coaches. They were pioneers in all these things. So they’ve been at the forefront of a lot of things that fight racism.

“Again, I’m not taking anything away from what Jaylen has gone through; I’m just saying I’m not sharing the same experience in my time as he is. And then, this is the thing: there may be things that he’s watching and seeing on social media, too. This is a different time. More people can reach you. Me being an older player and not being raised in social media, I don’t read all that stuff, because that’s where people hide their faces and say things about you that you don’t want to hear, and, you know, you could take that to heart.”

Jaylen Brown Keeping Future Options Open

People have been trying to read into comments from Brown that appeared near the end of the lengthy Ringer story: “We’ll see how they feel about me over time and I feel about them over time. Hopefully, whatever it is, it makes sense. But I will stay where I’m wanted. I will stay where I’m needed and treated correct.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’d leave his Celtic future open.

Said Pierce, “You’ve got to understand, we’re in an era where guys control their own destiny now more than ever. Players are always going to do what’s best for them, but I feel like a lot of stuff that was said about him being in trade rumors, that’s something he shouldn’t worry about.”

Pierce laughed and added, “He should just worry about where do he sign for this $200-and-something million. He needs to worry about whether he’s going to sign on the first day or wait a couple of days.”

But he knows Brown is concerned with more than that, which also could get discussed between bites.


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