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Kemba Walker is getting slammed over his pregame outfit.
On Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics tweeted a photo of the 31-year-old point guard making his way into TD Gardens, where Boston is hosting the Washington Wizards in the NBA play-in tournament. The post, which has since been deleted, showed Walker rocking a cap, a pair of jeans, JBL headphones, and a bright yellow jacket that seemed pretty unnoteworthy at first glance—that is, until he turned around.
The piece was emblazoned with the Gadsden Flag, which depicts a coiled timber rattlesnake above the phrase, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Though the banner initially served as a warning to the British, it’s meaning has shifted over the past couple of centuries, as it has become a favorite among white supremacists and far-right groups. The flag was seen at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, as well as the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Writer Rob Walker addressed the flag’s evolving symbolism in a 2017 piece for the New Yorker, writing:
Observers of the Gadsden flag’s resurgence—both pro and con—frequently end up comparing it to the Confederate battle flag. Hartvigsen says the version of that flag that we’re familiar with today was originally used by Confederate war veterans’ groups and the like, and was then embraced by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. This association with racial hatred, and the flag’s historic roots as an emblem of a would-be government that embraced slavery, has long made the flag offensive to many.
Walker’s outfit choice was reminiscent of the controversial protective mask James Harden wore last summer. The piece featured a Punisher skull and an American flag with a “thin blue line,” a pro-police symbol that is also frequently displayed among the far-right. Harden insisted he was unaware of the graphic’s association, claiming he only wore the mask because it provided full coverage for his beard.
It’s unclear if Walker is aware of the Gadsden Flag’s origins and the controversy behind it.
You can read some of the reactions to the jacket below.