“For me, I can speak for myself better than anybody, I want to make that clear: I didn’t want to go to Orlando,” Brown said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “Like, I had apprehensions not just because of social justice, but COVID-related, and had some family issues, as well. But, once I thought about the opportunity that the organization and the NBA presented to play for something bigger than myself, I would have signed up right away.
“I plan on using my voice when I’m down there. I plan on inspiring and spreading light on things that are getting dimmed, and hopefully the NBA and our organization can understand.”
Brown said that he wasn’t alone in thinking that trying to restart the season was a bad idea at first, as he said players across the league — including on the Celtics — were initially unsure of what to do. He said the biggest factor in that was players not having enough information to make a decision — and that, once players were better informed, things began to change.
“I think it was misinformation, or a lack of information being shared,” Brown said. “It was kind of a moment where a lot of us around the league felt like we didn’t have any information. We didn’t know what was going on.
“Once we found out, a lot of guys came around to making their decision.”
Brown’s teammate Grant Williams said it was a similar process for him. The rookie forward, who spent part of the time when the season was shut down living with Celtics star Kemba Walker in Charlotte, said he, too, initially struggled to make a decision.
“I feel like it was difficult, especially at first,” Williams said. “I understand what you mean because no one knew what to expect, so I don’t think we had any plan whether we were going to restart or not restart.
“Credit to the league, when we did kind of get going and understanding that they started reaching out to the player reps, including me and Jaylen on the executive committee. They did a good job communicating from then on. Especially in the beginning, no one had information, so I could understand why he felt discomfort, and a lot of other guys did as well.”
Brown has been one of the leading NBA players speaking out for social justice and against racial inequality and police brutality over the past several weeks. That included him driving to Atlanta to lead a protest march, where he was joined by Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon.
“It was an interesting experience,” Brown said. “I would say that. Impulsively during the time how I was feeling compelled me to go down there to Atlanta, to where I’m from, to join a cause etc. It was a peaceful protest, but we ran into some problems as well.
“I think three people were arrested during the peaceful protests, and the night before, the city had been rioting, so I understand how the police were on maybe high alert, but I just felt like that has been a major issue in our country — relationships between the police force and the rest of society, and I think that relationship needs to improve or we’re going to see more unjust or we’re going to see more discernment from society.”
Discussions about the NBA’s return have involved questioning whether the return of sports to American society will distract from the conversations going on about social issues that have developed over the past several weeks.
“At first those were my first thoughts, just the role that sports plays in our society, that it could serve as a distraction,” Brown said. “But now, with the conversations that we’ve had, I think it’s going to enhance, rather than dim, the light that’s being spread right now. I think everybody wants to watch basketball and the NBA, and we have voices of influence in our communities and we have obligations to our communities, not just obligations to our organizations.
“The more the NBA understands that, the better everybody will feel about it, especially players. So I feel that us going down there and making sure nobody gets distracted is part of the initial correspondence. We have to go down there and make sure that people don’t forget about George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Philando Castile or Ahmaud Arbery or Trayvon Martin, which is in the Orlando area. And the list goes on, and the countless other people who were not caught on video who experienced something similar.
“The bottom line is there’s improvements that need to be made and the NBA has a great voice and a lot of resources and a lot of influence and we are appreciative they are helping in aiding in a lot of the things we care about. So that’s really important.”