Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart has made it. He parlayed a celebrated college career at Oklahoma State into a first-round draft pick. He’s made a space for himself on the Boston Celtics over the course of six years with the organization. But that’s not enough to escape the baked-in racism that comes with living in the United States.
In a new article for The Players' Tribune, Smart shared several instances of profiling and outright racism that he’s dealt with throughout his 20s. Even as an NBA star, a member of a small fraternity of some of the best athletes on the planet, Smart has encountered constant reminders of American racism.
He recalled two separate instances where people called him the n-word.
“When I was a sophomore at Oklahoma State, a fan decided that it was perfectly OK for him to call me the n-word after I fell into the seats during a game,” he shared, before running down a more recent interaction with a 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,” he said of the woman leaving TD Garden in Celtics gear. “I figured she’d be cool. Nope.”
Smart said she responded by cursing him and calling him the n-word. And it’s not just basketball fans who have given Smart problems. Since signing on with the NBA, his nicer cars have drawn the attention of people in power. Namely, cops.
Though he made a point of tinting his windows within the legal limit, knowing how traffic stops can turn deadly for Black men, Smart said he was frequently stopped by police who believed his windows were too dark.
“One time it was like, ‘This is a pretty nice car. Pretty expensive. It’s yours????’” he said. “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.”
The article as a whole focuses on the coronavirus crisis and the way that the bubble gave Smart time to sit and reflect. He shares the story of his own positive test for coronavirus, working with doctors to donate plasma for people in need of the antibodies and his optimism for the future in the wake of the months-long protests spurred by the death of George Floyd. Take a look at Smart’s piece over at the The Players’ Tribune.