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Joe Mazzulla wants to go to Israel. Which Celtics would go with him?

Jaylen Brown wore a ‘Free Gaza’ bracelet earlier this season

Back in May, when the Boston Celtics were merely an NBA Finals contender, head coach Joe Mazzulla vowed to go to Israel with his family were the team to win it all.

“If we win the championship this year, we’re flying to Jerusalem and we’re walking from Jericho to Jerusalem,” Mazzulla said in an interview with NBC. (Winning pro athletes have often celebrated with a sponsored trip to Disneyland. An Israel trip might be a first.)

Now they’ve won it, knocking off the Dallas Mavericks (of Maus jersey fame) in five games. I don’t doubt Mazzulla, whose devout Catholicism is well-documented, will make the trip. But say he were to make it a team excursion: Would any players go with him?

There are a couple of Celtics mainstays who I think would happily get on the plane. Starting point guard Jrue Holiday, like his coach, has been open about his faith, saying he “makes Christ a priority”; I imagine he would go for the same reason Mazzulla would. Kristaps Porzingis would probably go too if only to hit the Tel Aviv clubs with his NBA bestie, Deni Avdija.

But I bet one of the team’s biggest stars would skip the hypothetical trip — and perhaps even protest it.

Jaylen Brown, the newly crowned Finals most valuable player, isn’t just the league’s highest-paid player — he’s arguably its most prominent political activist, too. He is outspoken about structural racism, police violence and inequality in education. He famously drove 15 hours from Boston to his hometown of Atlanta to lead a Black Lives Matter march there in 2020. 

Today, Brown’s profile picture on the social platform X is the word “liberation” arranged in the shape of his jersey number, 7, and Brown is surely aware of the association of liberation with the Palestinian cause. And in January Brown, who said earlier this year he was observing Ramadan — it is unclear whether he identifies as Muslim — wore a “Free Gaza” bracelet to a game.

His public statements on the war have otherwise been limited to a retweet of an Oct. 8 Kyrie Irving post that read, “God is watching what is happening around the world.”

Brown certainly hasn’t been afraid of ruffling feathers with his activism in the past. After Irving was criticized in 2022 for sharing an antisemitic movie, Brown turned his attention to Nets owner Joe Tsai, calling his response — saying Irving had “work to do” before he could return to court — alarming for multiple reasons.” And when Nike subsequently dropped Irving from his shoe contract, Brown wrote, “Since when does Nike care about ethics?”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misconstrued Mazzulla’s comment. He was planning to take his family to Israel, not the Celtics team.

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