Bill Russell has been not giving AF since his days in the ’50s and ’60s as the big, bold, talented and Black superstar on a predominately white Celtics team playing in a Boston town known for its racism and the police departments oppression of people of color.
Russell stood up for issues that affected the Black community, refused to patronize places that didnt treat him equal to whites, discussed ideas, issues and means of social activism with the most celebrated and influential Black minds of the Civil Rights movement in America.
So whats flipping a few birds on national television and reintroducing his 84-year-old self to the younger generation in 2018 as the rebel hes always been? Nothing if you are a man of Russells age and stature. It is what it is.
First Russell gave Charles Barkley the bird business in June at the NBA Awards. Before presenting Oscar Robertson with a lifetime achievement award, Barkley made his way around the room to thank some of the games living legends in attendance, including Russell.
When his name was called, however, Russell playfully flipped Barkley a stern, elongated bird.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood on stage with Barkley looking like Mike Myers when Kanye said, George Bush doesnt care about Black people in 2005. It was an awkward moment for a second.
On live television during a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina, Kanye West declares that President of the United States of America, George Bush, “doesn’t care about Black people”.
Then this week, with some coaxing from former NBA star and current Sacramento Kings President Vlade Divac, Russell, sitting courtside, sent another playful middle finger in the direction of Vince Carter who was commentating a game at the time, much to everyone’s amazement. I guess this is just the way Russell is going to greet people now.
Bill Russell back at it (via @LWashingtonTV) https://t.co/HL25WvLkPJ
This bird-flipping is making Russell a social media star at 84 years old. With his track record of service and success he can basically do what he wants.
Despite exhibiting a social awareness that some would label as militant in those days, Russell became a beloved icon in Boston without compromising his values. In 1966, he became the first Black head coach in any major professional sport. His refusal to submit to the whim of racism and degradation played a large role in the evolution of Black athletes leading up to the current unprecedented player empowerment and business savvy that’s prevalent today.
Via Lou Moores July TSL piece, LeBron James Is The Lineage Of The Black Athlete’s Wildest Dream:
Believing that the black athlete should be grateful for having an opportunity to play for pay, owners and general managers often belittled black athletes. Theyd often ignore them altogether when it came time to negotiate a contract. After all, owners reasoned, where did the black athlete have to turn?
The black athlete that wanted to gain power was forced to put his dignity first. Bill Russell learned this while trying to negotiate a contract with the Harlem Globetrotters. As the college senior sat down to negotiate his future, the white men in the room did all the talking. The representative for the Globetrotters didnt even speak to the future Hall of Famer. Instead, he talked to Russells assistance coach.
As a proud black man, Russell didnt play that. He walked away from the deal. Although he took less money, when he signed with the Celtics, he kept his dignity. Five years later, he was the highest paid athlete in the league.
Let Bill Russell bird flip if it makes him happy. No need to look at it negatively in any way. He paid his dues. Besides, based upon his track record, hed probably tell you to go to hell anyway.