ORLANDO — The Celtics, a franchise that drafted the first Black player in the NBA and also hired the first Black coach, made another unprecedented move Tuesday with the announcement of a $25 million commitment over the next 10 years to fight racial injustice and focus on social issues in the Black community of Greater Boston.
It is the first significant move by an NBA team since the league announced in August a $300 million plan to develop economic growth in Black communities. That plan called for every NBA team to donate $1 million per year for 10 years.
This Celtics plan, which includes a $20 million cash commitment and another $5 million in media assets and marketing, is more extensive and will focus on several issues that plague Black and brown communities in Greater Boston.
The organization has formed six committees, which include players, to focus on specific issues: Criminal justice and law enforcement, equity in education, economic opportunity and empowerment, equity in health care, breaking down barriers and building bridges between communities, and voting and civic engagement.
The program is spearheaded by Celtics managing partner Steve Pagliuca, vice president of player development and organizational growth Allison Feaster, and vice president of community engagement Dave Hoffman.
Some of the initiatives envisioned are creating early-education centers for low-income families, promoting early detection for diseases such as diabetes and breast cancer, and assisting juvenile offenders with job-development skills and educational opportunities.
“When we acquired the team, we laid out a three-point plan to win a championship, and really build a community asset, to really use the Celtics brand to help the community,” Pagliuca told the Globe. “As soon as we saw the George Floyd situation, we got together with [majority governor] Wyc Grousbeck and [team president] Rich Gotham and Dave Hoffman with the idea that this is unacceptable.
“We talked about a lot of different things. My view of the meeting was we could do some quick-hitting things that might be helpful, but this is a large, long-term systemic problem.
“It’s a lot worse [than we thought]. I thought our country was getting better, but the events of the last three months have said absolutely not. Instead of maybe doing some kind of donation or gesture, we said get our whole staff, a team of people, and study this issue.”
The result was a detailed breakdown of issues that have plagued the Black community for decades, such as lack of early-education resources, racial discrimination against Black-owned businesses, lack of an impactful and visible Black class, and excessive punishment for nonviolent crimes.
The Celtics asked employees to voluntarily join committees, and there was overwhelming interest. The committees have been meeting virtually all summer.
The plan also includes input from players. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Enes Kanter have spoken consistently during the Celtics' time in the NBA bubble on the need for social changes.
“We’ve really spent our time as an organization laying out a sophisticated, long-term road map," Hoffman said. “We had a lot of conversations with our players, getting a sense from them, if we were to put together a long-term very robust initiative to try to do our part to address racial inequity, what would you like to see us do?”
Feaster, who has been with the Celtics in the bubble for 10 weeks and has developed close bonds with the players, was able to procure feedback on how to aid the Black community.
“There were some events — George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, other events — that really marked us all,” Feaster said. “We have to listen to what our guys say and what our guys feel, and we want to make sure we represent them as an organization and make sure we would be doing something they would be proud of.”
With input from players and ownership, the Celtics then reached out to community leaders, academics, and nonprofit organizations. The club also has received cooperation from Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh.
“We’re doubling down on the effort,” said Pagliuca, whose group also developed the Shamrock Foundation, the Celtics’ vehicle for community efforts. “When we pulled out the 2003 presentation [when purchasing the team], we really did emphasize this was not just buying the Celtics but a community asset.
“Anybody who has these franchises has the responsibility to the community because it’s Boston. We all live and die with the Patriots, the Bruins, the Celtics, the Red Sox. These organizations have transcended sports, and certainly the Boston Celtics have always been on the forefront of equality.”
Pagliuca, 65, became emotional when he talked about the killing of Floyd and the issue of racism.
“I played basketball myself, so I experienced a lot of these difficult things with [Black] teammates,” he said. “So I felt like we just have to do this. It’s not a choice. It’s the right thing to do. We’re doing a lot of that, but we just have to do a lot more. We have to go out there and use our power for the good of all people.”
The Celtics already have developed a plan to promote voter registration, an idea that was insisted upon by NBA players in the bubble who recently boycotted for two days before coming to an agreement with league governors for increased participation.
“We want to make sure that we are rising to the collective challenge that’s out there for people,” Hoffman said. “It doesn’t matter, our heritage, but it hasn’t been enough and we have to accept that baton and do everything in our power to address this stuff.”