Celtics' Jaylen Brown opens up on Donald Trump, racism and America

Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown detailed his experience with the cross-section of racism and sports in a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian, and among his conclusions was that President Donald Trump, “unfit to lead,” “has made it more acceptable for racists to speak their minds.”

Many of Brown’s NBA brethren, from LeBron James to Kevin Durant, have suggested as much over the previous year, but few have framed Trump’s rise in the context of systemic racism so thoroughly.

“Racism definitely still exists in the South,” Brown told The Guardian. “I’ve experienced it through basketball. I’ve had people call me the n-word. I’ve had people come to basketball games dressed in monkey suits with a jersey on. I’ve had people paint their face black at my games. I’ve had people throw bananas in the stands.

“Racism definitely exists across America today. Of course it’s changed a lot — and my opportunities are far greater than they would have been 50 years ago. So some people think racism has dissipated or no longer exists. But it’s hidden in more strategic places. You have less people coming to your face and telling you certain things. But Trump has made it a lot more acceptable for racists to speak their minds.”

Brown, a Georgia native who spent a year at the University of California at Berkeley before being selected No. 3 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, explained that it is there that he learned of the “subtle but aggressive” racism in the American education system. He penned a dissertation on a society he believes is structured to ensure certain people are set up for success and others for failure, and he expressed thanks that basketball offered him a way to overcome the obstacles in front of him.

“Even though I’ve ended up in a great place, who is to say where I would’ve been without basketball?” he added. “It makes me feel for my friends. And my little brothers or cousins have no idea how their social mobility is being shaped. I wish more and more that I can explain it to them. Just because I’m the outlier in my neighborhood who managed to avoid the barriers set up to keep the privileged in privilege, and the poor still poor, why should I forget about the people who didn’t have the same chance as me?”

Brown credited former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for sacrificing his football career in support of social justice. He’s not surprised that there’s been an effort by the NFL, as he said, “to blackball him out of the league.” And he raised an interesting point about the role of sports in our culture — an escape from reality for both those who live it and those who don’t want to face it.

“That’s the reality because sports is a mechanism of control,” said Brown. “If people didn’t have sports they would be a lot more disappointed with their role in society. There would be a lot more anger or stress about the injustice of poverty and hunger. Sports is a way to channel our energy into something positive. Without sports who knows what half of these kids would be doing?

“We’re having some of the same problems we had 50 years ago. Some things have changed a lot but other factors are deeply embedded in our society. It takes protests like Kaepernick’s to make people uncomfortable and aware of these hidden injustices. People are now a lot more aware, engaged and united in our culture. It takes a special person like Kaepernick to force these changes — because often reporters and fans say: ‘If you’re an athlete I don’t want you to say anything. You should be happy you’re making x amount of money playing sport. You should be saluting America instead of critiquing it.’ That’s our society.”

Brown circled that back to Trump. The 21-year-old considered the president’s demand of an apology from LaVar Ball after his son LiAngelo was arrested for shoplifting in China further evidence that Trump’s priorities are out of whack — that, perhaps, (my words, not his) Trump’s “ungrateful fool” jab at LaVar was one more example of legislators trying to keep the existing societal structure in place.

“I just think Trump’s character and some of his values makes him unfit to lead,” said Brown. “For someone like him to be president, and in charge of our troops? It’s scary to be honest.”

Surely, there will be those who read Brown’s comments about the president and only reinforce his point about people lending credence to legacy children over one-and-done athletes, just because.

See photos from the young star's career: 

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Jaylen Brown through his career
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Jaylen Brown through his career
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 23: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden on December 23, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 15: Jaylen Brown #41 brings the ball up the court during the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 15, 2013 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
GARDEN GROVE, CA - AUGUST 1: Jaylen Brown #10 passes the ball during the 2014 adidas Nations on August 1, 2014 at Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove, California. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
GARDEN GROVE, CA - AUGUST 2: Jaylen Brown poses for a portrait during the 2014 adidas Nations on August 2, 2014 at Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove, California. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
LONG BEACH, CA - AUGUST 4: Jaylen Brown #10 with the dunk during the 2014 adidas Nations consolation game between 2015 adidas U.S. Howard and adidas Europe on August 4, 2014 at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, California. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
01 April 2015: McDonald's All-American Boy's East Team forward Jaylen Brown (1) in action during the McDonald's All American Game at the United Center, in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 26: Jaylen Brown #0 of the California Golden Bears brings the ball up the court against the San Diego State Aztecs during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 26, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. San Diego State won 72-58. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 27: Jakob Poeltl #42 and Brandon Taylor #11 of the Utah Utes defend against Jaylen Brown #0 of the California Golden Bears as he tries for the basket in the second half of the Utes 73-64 win at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on January 27, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 22: Jaylen Brown #0 of the California Golden Bears looks on during a college basketball game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on December 22, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Cavaliers won 63-62 in overtime. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 17: Draft Prospect Jaylen Brown poses for some portraits with some draft hats prior to the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery on May 17, 2016 at the NBA Headquarters in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Jaylen Brown is interviewed after being drafted third overall by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
BOTON, MA - JUNE 24: Jaylen Brown speaks at a press conference after being drafted by the Boston Celtics during the 2016 NBA Draft on June 24, 2016 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 10: Jaylen Brown #9 of Boston Celtics shoots a free throw during the game against the Phoenix Suns during the 2016 NBA Las Vegas Summer League on July 10, 2016 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on against the New York Knicks during the second half of their preseason game at Madison Square Garden on October 15, 2016 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
BOSTON - OCTOBER 19: Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (7) drives to the basket as he is defended by New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (42) during the first quarter. The Boston Celtics take on the New York Knicks in their final exhibition game of the preseason at TD Garden in Boston on Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 6: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics is seen during the game against the Denver Nuggets on November 6, 2016 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 09: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the first half against the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on December 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -� JANUARY 24: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics grabs the rebound against the Washington Wizards on January 24, 2017 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 25: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics gets introduced before the game against the Houston Rockets on January 25, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON - MARCH 24: Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (7) signals his 26 foot shot is good for three as the Celtics take a 22-3 lead early in the first quarter. The Boston Celtics host the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden in Boston on Mar. 24, 2017. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 26: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics dunks against the Miami Heat on March 26, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 10: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics runs through the hallway to the coourt before Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Wizards during the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 10, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on after the game against the Washington Wizards during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2017 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 23: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers controls the ball against Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter during Game Four of the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on May 23, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 3: Jaylen Brown of Team World poses for a portrait as part of the Basketball Without Borders Africa at the American International School of Johannesburg on August 3, 2017 in Gauteng province of Johannesburg, South Africa. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics smiles during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 17, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Jaylen Brown #7 and Semi Ojeleye #37 of the Boston Celtics hug in the hallway before the game against the New York Knicks on October 24, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics dunks the ball during the first half of the NBA game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on November 14, 2017 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
BOSTON - NOVEMBER 24: Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown steps in front of Orlando Magic's D.J. Augustin for a steal during the first quarter. The Boston Celtics host the Orlando Magic in a regular season NBA basketball game at TD Garden in Boston on Nov. 24, 2017. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14: Boston Celtics Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, and Kenny Graves visit Aba at Boston Children's Hospital December 14, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images for Boston Children's Hospital)
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 10: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Detroit Pistons on December 10, 2017 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 23: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on before the game against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden on December 23, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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