Boston Celtics star Kemba Walker stirred up controversy after he donned a pregame jacket that sported the Gadsden flag with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” emblazoned on the back of it.
Walker had just arrived at the TD Garden for the play-in game tournament matchup with the Washington Wizards on Tuesday when people noticed what he was wearing and started asking questions. The Celtics tweeted out a photo of Walker with the bright-yellow jacket but very quickly deleted it. A media frenzy ensued complete with leftist outrage.
The point guard would go on to finish out the game with 29 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals during the faceoff. The Celtics won 118 to 100 to secure the No. 7 seed for the Eastern Conference side of the NBA playoffs bracket. But his stellar performance was not what primarily got noticed by the public and his fans. What he unwittingly wore set social media on fire.
The flag was designed during the American Revolution, was anti-British, and has become an iconic symbol of freedom in the United States. However, it was flown at the protest that gave birth to the Capitol riot, and ever since then, those on the left have attempted to paint it as a radical, racist symbol. The flag depicts a coiled timber rattlesnake above the phrase, “Don’t Tread on Me.” It is often used to depict standing for gun rights or limited government. The flag was also hugely popular with the Tea Party movement.
According to Jared Weiss, who covers Boston’s NBA team for The Athletic, Walker said he had no idea what the flag meant and that he allegedly wore it because he liked the colors and the way it looked.
Kemba Walker was asked about wearing this jacket which has a flag associated with far-right politics. His answer made it pretty apparent he has no idea what it means, saying he liked the colors and the way it looked. No message meant by it. pic.twitter.com/BKSXFypFfr
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 19, 2021
This is not the first time that leftists have been triggered by a player wearing conservative attire. The Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden wore a “Blue Lives Matter”-related face mask in 2020 during the summer when he arrived at the NBA’s restart in Orlando, Florida. He was roundly savaged for doing so.
The mask featured a Punisher skull and an American flag with a pro-police “Thin Blue Line” running through it. Harden also claimed ignorance for what he was wearing but was slammed for it anyway. He said it looked cool, provided full coverage for his beard, and he did not realize it had any potential political message.
James Harden: "It was something to cover my whole face, my beard…I thought it looked cool, that's it." #Rockets
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) July 17, 2020
Increasingly, NBA players wear attire that promotes a political or social message. The practice has increased dramatically over the last year as Black Lives Matter and leftist groups have become more prominent due to activists such as former football player Colin Kaepernick who protested police while kneeling during the National Anthem.
Included in the agreement to resume the 2020 NBA season in the Orlando Bubble last July was an acknowledgment that players would be allowed to wear jerseys with social-justice messaging on them. Walker ended last season with “Love Us” embroidered on the back of his player’s jersey.
Twitter commenters exploded over the incident smearing the flag as extreme and racist:
Whats going on with Kemba Walker man 😂
Celtics deleted that QUICK pic.twitter.com/0UDuBlc5zV
— Unmasked_(G) (@UnmaskedRetreat) May 19, 2021
Kemba Walker 🤝 James Harden
"I have no idea what this means" pic.twitter.com/cO9G72ioe5
— rxbun (@rxbun) May 19, 2021
“I’ve always been a kemba fan, There’s nothing wrong with what he’s wearing” pic.twitter.com/S1PsBlBuXn
— LaMarc GasolDridge (@zerryferd) May 19, 2021
With "Don't Tread on me" on the back of the shirt???? pic.twitter.com/R1Q7FyCsHd
— KeKe💚 (@Iheartthecelts) May 18, 2021
Kemba better hope that Young Thug comes to his defense like he did when Harden wore a blue lives matter mask https://t.co/XqExrqtgAO
— sreekar (@sreekyshooter) May 19, 2021