The news is out: [Decades before Wednesday’s walkout by the Milwaukee Bucks brought the playoffs to a halt, a few NBA pioneers took a similarly brave stand against racial injustice.
They boldly walked out on a game during an era when it wasn’t yet socially acceptable for Black athletes to demand change.
On Oct. 17, 1961, the NBA champion Boston Celtics visited Lexington, Kentucky, to play an exhibition game against the St. Louis Hawks. The purpose of the matchup was to drum up interest in the NBA in a new market by showcasing former University of Kentucky stars Frank Ramsey of the Celtics and Cliff Hagan of the Hawks.
Soon after the Celtics arrived at the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington and checked into their rooms, Sam Jones and Tom “Satch” Sanders came downstairs for an early dinner. The two Black future Basketball Hall of Fame members asked for a table at the hotel’s cafe, but Jones told Yahoo Sports on Thursday that the hostess turned them away at the door.
“Ma’am, we’re staying at the hotel,” Jones incredulously told the hostess.
“I’m sorry but we don’t serve Negroes,” he recalls her responding.
Incensed and humiliated, Jones told Sanders that he was ready to pack his bags and fly home. They were on their way back upstairs when they ran into teammates Bill Russell and K.C. Jones getting off the elevator.
Russell said he and K.C. were on their way to eat.
“Not in this hotel,” Sam Jones replied.]
Nothing has changed.