Russell was a champion of activism before winning NBA titles

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Sports

BOSTON — Bill Russell never had to find his voice as an activist. He didn’t know any other way but to speak his mind.It’s what made the winningest athlete in team sports one of the greatest champions of activism. His belief in equality and the stances he took helped create a pathway that athletes today continue to walk in.Len Elmore, who played 10 seasons in the NBA and is a senior lecturer at Columbia University where he’s taught on athlete activism and social justice in sports, called Russell’s social contributions “immortal.”“He showed many of us in the game how to be,” Elmore said.Before Russell, who died Sunday at age 88, developed the skills that would make him an 11-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, two-time Hall of Famer and an Olympic gold medalist, he had a front row view of the racial indignities endured by his parents as he grew up in segregated Monroe, Louisiana.In a time when Jim Crow laws in the South existed to silence the views of Black people, he was groomed to be an unapologetic thinker.“I have never worked to be well-liked or well-loved, but only to be respected,” Russell wrote in his 1966 book “Go Up For Glory.” “I believe I can contribute something far more important than mere basketball.”That conviction was rooted in what he observed as a child in the late 1930s and early 1940s in Louisiana, where his fa …

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