Going back as far as the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick, Celtics ownership has been heavily involved in social justice projects and initiatives.
But when news of the death of George Floyd broke in late May, Steve Pagliuca decided that the Celtics needed to do more.
“Wyc (co-owner Grousbeck) and me and Rich (Gotham, team president) met right after that,” said the Celtics co-owner. “After George Floyd, we were all aghast. We had to do something more. We had to study it.”
The result is a 10-year plan to address racial injustice in Boston, with a $25 million commitment, including $20 million in cash and $5 million in media and marketing. Players will take part in a series of committees that look at the areas of criminal justice and law enforcement, equity in education, economic opportunity and empowerment, equity in health care, breaking down barriers and building bridges between communities, and voting and civic engagement.
Mal Graham, the former Celtics guard who is now a retired Boston judge, applauded the initiative, saying via text, “Nice win by the team and great announcement by the owners of a substantial grant to focus on social issues in the black community of greater Boston. Greatly needed.”
All owners, as part of their agreement with players following a two-day walkout by players after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have committed resources to similar plans, though the Celtics are the first to unveil their initiative and put a dollar figure behind it.
Jaylen Brown, who at the age of 23 has risen to a position of leadership within the players association, is one of several players who will play a key role in the programs and investments that result from these committee meetings.
“Our goal is to have a direct impact now,” he said. “We don’t need to pacify the situation with empty gestures. We need to hold ourselves, the Celtics organization, and the city of Boston accountable. Monetary commitment is a great first step, but we need to commit to this process by creating a balance of short and long-term change. The time is now.”
The programs are being developed by Allison Feaster, the team’s vice president of player development, and Dave Hoffman, vice president of community engagement.
One area that will require a more gradual plan is voting accessibility. Houston was the first franchise to announce a plan to open the Toyota Center on time for the general election in November.
Though the Celtics reached agreement with Delaware North, owner of the Garden and the Bruins, to use the arena as a voting venue, logistical issues prevented the plan from being implemented this fall. But it’s a subject that will be revisited down the road.
Relatives of team staff members are now allowed to move into the Orlando bubble, with a limit of 10 visitors per NBA staff. Brad Stevens, one of the early advocates for including family members in the NBA’s bubble plan, sounds like he was hoping for a greater number.
“Well, I’ve been involved in those conversations since May. We just found out this morning we have 10 spots,” he said. “So, I’ll share my own thoughts privately with the NBA and that’s all I’ll have to say about it.”
The road team has won every game in the Celtics’ second round series against the Raptors, which doesn’t bode well for the Celtics being the “home” team in Game 6 Wednesday night.
If it actually mattered, of course.
“Yeah, that home/road stuff doesn’t mean anything here, obviously,” said Stevens. “It’s nice to have the backgrounds and all that other stuff but, to be honest with you, I can’t even hear any of it or really pay much attention to it after maybe the starting lineups are announced, which are odd anyways because there’s nobody clapping. We’ve never really put any thought into that, to be honest, but it is unique.”