Note: we are republishing this story amid a nationwide conversation about race and racial justice in America.
The Bolton Celtics tweeted a picture of Kemba Walker making his way into TD Gardens, where the team was set to play against the Washington Wizards in the NBA play-in tournament.
In the post, Walker is seen wearing a cap, jeans, a bright yellow jacket and JBL headphones. The outfit seemed inconspicuous at first, until Walker turned around.
The back of the jacket featured the Gadsden Flag - a coiled timber rattlesnake poised to strike, with the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me” below it. Though this initially served as a warning to the British, over the past couple of centuries, its meaning has changed, and is now a favorite among white supremacists and far-right groups.
The flag was flown at the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, and during the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The post was quickly deleted from the team’s page.
In a 2017 piece in the New Yorker, author Rob Walker discussed the flag’s evolving symbolism: “Observers of the Gadsden flag’s resurgence—both pro and con—frequently end up comparing it to the Confederate battle flag. Hartvigsen says the version of that flag that we’re familiar with today was originally used by Confederate war veterans’ groups and the like, and was then embraced by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. This association with racial hatred, and the flag’s historic roots as an emblem of a would-be government that embraced slavery, has long made the flag offensive to many.”
It is unclear whether Walker was aware of the Gadsden Flag’s advent and the controversy surrounding it.