Boston Celtics player Marcus Smart reflected on his experiences with racism, the Coronavirus, playing and living inside the NBA’s Florida “bubble” and more in a new Players’ Tribune piece, “This Article Is Not About Basketball.” Watching the nationwide calls for social justice unfold while isolated with his basketball teammates, Smart wrote, made him think back to the times he had been confronted with racism during his career.
“When I was a sophomore at Oklahoma State, a fan decided that it was perfectly O.K. for him to call me the n-word after I fell into the seats during a game,” he wrote.
“My rookie year, I bought a new Range Rover, and, knowing what I know about traffic stops in this country, I made damn sure that the tint on the windows was legal. Somehow, though... I just kept getting pulled over for my tint,” Smart continued.
“One time it was like, ‘This is a pretty nice car. Pretty expensive. It’s yours????’ Another time, I get pulled over for the tint again, and the officer recognizes who I am. So for whatever reason he starts going in on Colin Kaepernick. ‘I can’t believe that guy would actually kneel like that during the anthem,’ he tells me. ‘Can you believe that? I’m just really glad you’re not like that guy. Right? You’re not one of them.’”
The experience that has “stuck with” him the most, Smart wrote, happened while he was was trying to help a Boston Celtics fan.
“I was pulling out of the arena parking lot when I saw a white woman with her five- or six-year-old son crossing against the light right as the cars were starting to come at them. I had my windows down and realized something bad was about to happen, so I yelled to her, politely, that she needed to hurry and get out of the street so the two of them wouldn’t get hurt,” he wrote.
“The woman was wearing an Isaiah Thomas number 4 Celts jersey. And there were all these other Celtics fans around who were at the game. I figured she’d be cool. Nope.”
The woman, Smart writes, began hurling racist slurs at him and yelled, “Fu*k you, you fu*ing n****r!”
“And in an instant, just like that, I was made to feel less than human,” Smart recalled. “I wasn’t a person to this woman. I was a form of entertainment. Nothing more.”
Smart added that “now more than ever,” he feels sorry for the woman’s son and all the other “kids out there being brought up to hate rather than to love.”
“It just reminds me that racism is not something you’re born with. It’s taught,” he wrote. “And the fact that people are actually out there teaching their kids — through their words and actions — how to be racist… that truly breaks my heart.
“No kid should be exposed to that,” he added. “Our children deserve better.”
Smart also reflected on his and his father’s experience contracting COVID-19, joining the Black Lives Matter marches in Boston and more. Read his full article here.