The Celtics took the time to acknowledge an off-field problem during Saturday’s practice prior to Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Several players wore shirts that read “We Are BG,” protesting the arrest of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia. The United States Department of State previously marked Griner as “wrongfully detained” in May, and May 27 marked the 100-day mark since Russia held her captive. Griner was arrested and charged with smuggling cannabis oil in her luggage at a Russian airport in February when she traveled to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
With help from the Players Association and the WNBA, Celtics forward Grant Williams came up with the idea of wearing the shirts during Saturday’s practice.
“We just wanted to show that togetherness and love that we have,” Williams told reporters from the team that came together to wear the shirts.
“We hope not only that she brings her back to the US where she can be reunited with her family, but that she can also do what she loves, which is play basketball,” Williams added.
Celtics star Jaylen Brown gave Williams kudos for leading the way in Griner’s support on Saturday. Brown, who spoke frequently about social issues throughout his six-year NBA career, isn’t sure if the Celtics will be wearing them for the entire series or not. He does support his teammates who want to shed light on certain matters.
“We thought it would be a good idea to use our availability and our platforms to raise awareness,” Brown says. “I always stand for that. As an athlete we are not just here to entertain you. We also have a voice. I always appreciate and applaud athletes, entertainers, my teammates who intend to do something with that.
“I’m not sure we’ll be wearing it the rest of the time, but today was a good day to draw attention to a topic that was needed. Tomorrow maybe something else.”
Celtics star Jayson Tatum to get to know Griner a little bit during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. Tatum played for the US men’s basketball team and Griner played for the US women’s basketball team.
“You know, when we were there with the Olympics, it was clear during COVID and so we couldn’t really go out and see other events and things like that,” Tatum said. “So after the games, after training, we’d be in the hospitality room, men and women. We’d be there, playing cards, karaoke, that sort of thing, video games. Great person to deal with. She just lights up the whole room with her personality.
“So it’s very hard to see what she’s going through. I know everyone sees and feels that, and of course we all support bringing her back to her family and things like that. Yes, wearing those shirts today to support her.’
Celtics point guard Marcus Smart was one of several players to wear the shirt during Saturday’s practice. After not being asked about it during his press conference, Smart had a message to share.
“Don’t forget this shirt. We’re at BG, man,” Smart said.
The Celtics have spoken out on social issues in recent days. Unsolicited, Celtics coach Ime Udoka mentioned the recent shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 children and two adults after their Game 7 win over the Heat, in hopes the country doesn’t lose focus on what’s important in life.
Williams also wore a shirt in support of Griner on Tuesday as the Celtics flew to San Francisco. On Friday, the Celtics changed their social media pages to orange in support of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
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