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Celtics legend Bill Russell speaks out on Trump’s epithet

Former Celtics player-coach Bill Russell.Jack Plunkett)/Associated Press/file

Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell spoke out forcefully Friday against President Donald Trump’s reported use of the word “shithole” to describe immigration from countries affected by natural disasters and other devastation.

Russell, long an outspoken advocate for civil rights, said on Twitter that the Africans who first arrived on US shores were brought here against their will.

The 11-time NBA champion has often spoken out on civil rights issues, dating back to his time with the Celtics in Boston. He attended the 1963 March on Washington and was a supporter of Muhammad Ali at a time when the boxer was drawing controversy over his decision not to serve in the military. He was the first African-American coach in professional sports in North America when he was named Celtics player-coach in 1966, though he has long distanced himself from Boston, a city he once considered bigoted.


Russell’s tweet was among the host of reactions from many corners of the world in the wake of Trump’s comments during an Oval Office meeting that Senator Dick Durbin called “hate-filled, vile, and racist.”

The Washington Post first reported that Trump had used the vulgar term during a discussion on immigration reform with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Thursday.

Trump denied that he used the language in a series of tweets on Friday, but Durbin, who attended the meeting, said he used the word “shithole” more than once.