Actress Nia Long has issued her first statement following the yearlong suspension of her longtime partner, Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka.
In an emailed statement to Boston.com Friday morning, the award-winning actress asked for privacy to “process the recent events” and vowed to “continue to focus” on her children.
“The outpouring [of] love and support from family, friends and the community during this difficult time means so much to me,” Long said. “I ask that my privacy be respected as I process the recent events. Above all, I am a mother and will continue to focus on my children.”
The Celtics formally announced Udoka’s suspension Thursday evening for “violations” of team policies. A league source told the Globe that Udoka had an improper consensual relationship with a female member of the organization.
Long, known for films such as “The Best Man,” “Boyz N the Hood,” and “Soul Food,” first met Udoka in Boston in February 2010. At the time, Long was filming a pilot for NBC, and Udoka, then a player with the Sacramento Kings, was playing the Celtics.
Long and Udoka talked in a hotel lobby until 1 a.m., then went to dinner the next night at an Italian restaurant in the North End. The pair quickly became an item, and Long gave birth to the couple’s son, Kez, in November 2011. (Long has another son, Massai, 21, from a previous relationship with actor Massai Z. Dorsey, Sr.)
Long and Udoka confirmed their engagement in 2015, but never married. Over the years, Long has spoken multiple times about not feeling the need to tie the knot.
“I understand the religious aspect of marriage,” Long said during a 2020 appearance on Essence’s “Yes Girl” podcast. “That is beautiful and it’s fantastical and it’s dreamy and it’s every girl’s fantasy to have that moment. But I don’t know that I need that.”
In the past, Long frequently provided glimpses into her relationship with Udoka on social media, sharing photos of the pair at Disneyland following Massai’s high school graduation and celebrating Kez’s birthday. On May 30, Long shared a video of her celebrating as Udoka and the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals.
Yes!!! pic.twitter.com/uW96N1EEqg— Nia Long (@NiaLong) May 30, 2022
Following the team’s announcement of his suspension, Udoka issued a statement to ESPN’s Malika Andrews apologizing for putting the Celtics “in this difficult situation.”
“I want to apologize to our players, fans, the entire Celtics organization, and my family for letting them down,” Udoka said. “I am sorry for putting the team in this difficult situation, and I accept the team’s decision. Out of respect for everyone involved, I will have no further comment.”