I was watching the Green Book the other day and there is a scene where Dr Donald Shriley refuses to play in a restaurant unless he can eat there. The owner of the restaurant explains to Dr Shirley that the Boston Celtics came to the restaurant a few years ago, the world champions and the Celtics ate at the restaurant but Bill Russell had to eat somewhere else. The film was based in 1962 and this made me wonder how was Bill Russell involved with the Civil Rights Movement given how high profile he was as a basketball player.
How Bill Russell was involved with Civil Rights? Bill Russell was involved in the civil rights. Most significantly he stood shoulder to shoulder with Muhammad Ali when Ali refused to fight in Vietnam.
Obviously, it has come to light that the Green Book has some historical inaccuracies and I have been unable to find a source confirming Bill Russell had to eat dinner elsewhere. Bob Cousy who was a teammate of Bill Russell regularly stayed with Bill Russell when he was not allowed into places. Bill Russell won 11 NBA Championships and was a star of the league therefore, it is interesting to see how he was involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
What was Bill Russell experience with Racism?
Bill Russell experienced racism at a young age. Russell was brought up in Louisiana and he witnessed a significant amount of racism. He would eventually move to Oakland and play basketball in California. Was the at the centre of a high school team that won two state championships and had Russell himself had amazing defence. Even after this success, Russell did not receive a letter of intent from any colleges, this was down to his race. In the end Russell ended up with one letter of intent to the University of San Francisco which he accepted.
Russell had an amazing year in his junior college he won the NCAA championship, was voted the final fours MVP, averaged 20 points and rebounds a game, as well as being an all American. However. At the North California banquet Russell was not chosen as player of the year but another centre was chosen. Russell realised that his race factored in the decision. This was confirmed the following season when the University of San Francisco went undefeated and won another NCAA Championship. Once again Bill Russell ended up being a runner up again.
Other examples of racism was Bill Russell’s coach being chastised by the league for starting games with three black players. Bill Russell and the University of San Fransico received large amounts of hate mail due to this. The hate mail continued to grow, particularly after winning 55 games in a row.
This did not deter Russell and he continued to play basketball and was drafted into the NBA in 1956, to the Boston Celtics following a trade with St Louis.
When did Bill Russell become involved with the Civil Rights Movement?
There was a forum there for me If I choose to use it and I choose to use it.Bill Russell on ESPN
When Bill Russell started playing for the Celtics, he would have to travel through towns that still took part in the Jim Crow Laws. The Jim crows law were only abolished in America as a whole in 1965.
’I was staying at a hotel and I went to a restaurant down the street, the proprietor asked me what I wanted. I said it’s a restaurant isn’t it, I would like to get something to eat. He tells me no, so I walked out’.Bill Russell
In July 1963, Bill Russell was called by Charlie Evers were Bill Russell was asked to help. The previous Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers had been killed. Bill was asked to go Medgar Evers home town by Megdars, brother Charlie Evers. Bill was asked to hold a basketball clinic for black and white children. Russell risked everything to believe in what was right. This wasn’t at the end of his career, this was Bill Russell in his prime and was in the process of winning eleven championships. He knew that he could lose everything but he had to support the right way.
Russell continued to partake in the Civil Rights Movement, joining Martin Luther King in the March on Washington. Further iconic moments happened with Bill Russell including sitting next to Muhammad Ali.
The gift that Bill Russell gave to kids was the expectation that there was nothing a kid couldn’t do. I don’t have to shrink myself or think there is a ceiling to what I can accomplish.Barack Obama
Russell continued to break barriers by becoming the coach of the boston Celtics and being the first black coach in all four major sports leagues.
A beautiful world this country of ours. It will never reach its full potential until we exploit and accept ever man. Long after my basketball world ends, my fight will go on, it is the fight of any American. One of the enjoyable and frustrating experiences in the history of man is to be an American “****” at this time. Where does it end? It ends somewhere far ahead of us. The fight will be long and hard and it will not be won in my life time. But the issue is here, silence in this matter, will only be bigotry, and we have enough biggots both black and white. Raise the question confront the blamelessness, we are all to blame, we all must be confronted. No man gains the right to the world or compromise. It is matter of asking questions. Some day it will work because men who asked have always succeed or been followed by men who have succeed.
Russell believed that mentorship was the way forward and that through mentoring and encouraging the young the world would become a better place.
Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali?
Bill Russell was one of the athletes who along with Kareem Abdul Jabber joined Muhammad Ali at the Cleveland Summit. Ali had refused to fight in the Vietnam war and was stripped of his charges and had been charged with draft dodging. The summit was held and had influential African American sport starts attend to give support to Ali.
Ali was one of the most hated men in America at the time and therefore, having the sports stars support Ali made Ali’s message even louder.
How did the NBA change with the Civil Rights Movement?
Russell did not desegregate the NBA, but he integrated it. He became the first black superstar—the first to generate copious publicity, the first to alter the sport’s texture, the first to shape a team’s championship destiny. Moreover, in the midst of the civil rights movement, Russell presided over basketball’s model of successful racial integration.Goudsouzian, Aram. “Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution.” American Studies, vol. 47, no. 3/4, 2006, pp. 61–85. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40643954.