Celtics’ Kemba Walker Knocked for Donning Flag with Racist Undertones

Kemba Walker, Celtics

Getty Kemba Walker, Celtics

It’s not something expected at a Celtics game, or an NBA game in general.

Still, it’s likely that we’ve all seen the flag before, a bright yellow backdrop featuring a coiled rattlesnake above the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.” The origins of the flag, called the Gadsden Flag, are apocryphal but, according to historian Paul Bruski of Iowa State, it “seems to begin with a simple illustration accompanying an essay by Benjamin Franklin in 1754, 20 years before American independence.”

In more recent years, the flag morphed into a Tea Party symbol and, Bruski wrote, “Because it is commonly flown alongside ‘Trump 2020’ flags, the Confederate battle flag and other white-supremacist flags, some may now see the Gadsden flag as a symbol of intolerance and hate – or even racism.”

That view of the flag may not be entirely fair but that context made it especially odd to see Celtics star Kemba Walker show up to Tuesday night’s showdown against the Wizards in the NBA’s play-in tournament in a bright yellow jacket, the back of which was a full-body version of the Gadsden flag.

The Celtics’ team Twitter account showed off Walker’s odd sartorial choice, only to delete the tweet once the connotations of the flag made the rounds on social media.

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Kemba Walker Knocked on Social Media

The Walker jacket, of course, drew considerable online reaction among fans and media.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones tweeted his immediate shock at Walker’s choice. Former college star and NBA player Rex Chapman followed up by suggesting Walker does not know the recent history of Gadsden flag.

Some did agree with Chapman’s assessment of the situation, or chalked it up to stylist error.

One user compared Walker’s coat to the “Blue Lives Matter” face mask worn by James Harden when he arrived at the NBA’s bubble environment in Orlando for last year’s league restart.

And there were, of course, plenty of January 6 jokes.

Celtics Need Kemba Walker’s Scoring With Jaylen Brown Injury

In the end, what will matter most for NBA fans and media is how Walker plays — he is, after all, allowed to wear whatever he likes to work, and perhaps he was wearing the Gadsden jacket as some form of silent protest. No matter. What the Celtics need from him is aggressiveness, poise and, especially, good health.

The health aspect has been in short supply this year for Walker, as he again battled knee problems and appeared in only 43 games. He averaged 19.3 points on 42.0% shooting, both of which were his worst numbers since 2015.

With star wing Jaylen Brown out for the remainder of the playoffs because of a wrist injury — if the Celtics can earn their way into the playoffs, that is — Walker becomes the team’s most critical player alongside star forward Jayson Tatum. The Celtics need a second player to take over the scoring role of Brown, who averaged a career-high 24.7 points this year.

The Celtics finished the year a very disappointing 36-36 in this injury-plagued season, closing the year with five losses in six games to fall from a sure postseason spot to the play-in tournament. Walker, though, started just 2-for-8 from the field as Boston fell behind in the first half of the game.

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