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September 9, 2022

Pressley, MA Lawmakers Unveil House Resolution Honoring the Life and Legacy of Bill Russell

As City Councilor, Pressley Led Effort to Commission Bill Russell Statue Outside City Hall

Resolution Text (PDF)

BOSTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) led her colleagues the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation in introducing a House resolution honoring Boston Celtics legend William “Bill” Felton Russell. Rep. Pressley joined Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in unveiling the Senate companion resolution last month.

As a Boston City Councilor, Rep. Pressley led a resolution with Councilor John Connolly urging the City of Boston to commission the statue of Bill Russell that currently stands outside of Boston City Hall. The full text of their city council resolution is available here.

“Bill Russell was an undisputed champion both on the court and off, and he was an unapologetic advocate for a more just and equitable world. But most importantly, he was a man with a family and beloved community,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Congressional intent is powerful, and a resolution is a statement of Congress’ appreciation for Bill Russell’s endless contributions throughout his lifetime. I give my heartfelt condolences to his loved ones. May he rest in peace and power.”

“Bill Russell’s legacy as a leader, role model, and civil rights icon cannot be overstated,” said Congressman James P. McGovern. “On the court, he was the greatest winner in American team sports history, but his courage and conviction off the court are really what sets him apart. In Massachusetts and across the country, he was never afraid to stand up for what’s right in the face of criticism and threats of violence, and there’s no doubt in my mind our world is a better and more equitable place for it.

“I was fortunate to grow up during Bill Russell’s amazing career as an eleven-time Celtics champion, both as a player and later a coach,” said Rep. Stephen F. Lynch. “He was a trailblazer in the NBA and lifelong champion for civil rights, and his life’s work and noble example will serve as a guide for generations to come.”

“A trailblazer on and off the court, Bill Russell was a civil rights champion whose impact can be felt far beyond Massachusetts,” said Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark. “A talented, kind, and courageous man, Russell persevered through an era of intense racism and abuse and succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. It’s an honor to join my colleagues in marking his legacy and commemorating the life of a man who will be deeply missed.”

“Bill Russell was an inspiration on and off the court. He was an unparalleled competitor who won every big game he played in. He was also a champion for justice. I am honored to join my colleagues to honor the life of a great American,” said Rep. Jake Auchincloss.

“Bill Russell stands alone as the greatest champion in the history of team sports. He was a remarkable 21-0 in winner take all games, and my personal favorite athlete of all time. But what sets him apart from everyone else was his lifetime of activism for civil rights,” said Congressman Bill Keating. “Bill Russell never cowered from speaking up for what was right and just, and his legacy is so much more than that of a Celtics’ legend – his legacy is that of a giant who never cowered from risking it all to make our world a better place.”

“Bill Russell stood taller than anyone on the basketball court, and he had the courage to risk his celebrity to stand up for justice in Boston and across the United States,” Congressman Seth Moulton said. “Yes, we are grateful that the greatest champion in sports is a Celtic, but we are also thankful he was an unparalleled champion for the rights and dignity of all of us. May he rest in power.”

“For so many here in Massachusetts and across our nation, Bill Russell is an inspiration. Those of us who have followed Bill’s career for decades know that both on and off the court, he always worked to improve the people around him,” said Congresswoman Lori Trahan. “There’s no question that our Commonwealth and our country are better off today because of his tenacity, his advocacy, and his leadership. I’m honored to join with my colleagues to introduce this resolution to honor Bill’s life and legacy.”

“Bill Russell was a hero, a disruptor, a leader, a giant,” said Senator Markey. “He was brilliance, fairness, and justice personified. The greatest winner in the history of all sports and the conscience of our city and country. We honor Bill Russell’s legacy as a Celtic, a champion, and a crusader. With a heavy heart, we express our deepest condolences to his friends and family and his fans for this loss.”

“Bill Russell was a legend on and off the court,” said Senator Warren. “Not only did he help lead the Celtics to an astounding 11 NBA championships, but he was also committed to courageous and righteous fights—marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking out against segregation in Boston public schools during the prime of his career, and regularly championing civil rights and racial justice. I’m thankful to partner with Senator Markey and Representative Pressley to honor his legacy.”

Joining Rep. Pressley in introducing the House resolution are Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-05), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Seth Moulton (MA-06), William R. Keating (MA-09) and Richard E. Neal (MA-01).

Russell was the number two pick in the 1956 NBA draft. A decade later, he became a player-coach for the Celtics and the first Black head coach of a major U.S. professional sports team. In his 13-year career with the Celtics, he led the team to 11 NBA championships, won the NBA’s most valuable player award five times, and was a 12-time All Star. The introduction follows an announcement from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) that Russell’s uniform No. 6 will be permanently retired across the NBA.

Russell matched his achievements on the basketball court with an enduring commitment to advancing civil rights and racial justice in America. In 1963, Russell marched with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington. That same year, Russell encouraged demonstrations against the segregation of Boston public schools. And in 1967, he took part in the Cleveland Summit to join Black athletes supporting Muhammad Ali’s refusal to enter the military after he was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. For these efforts and more, in 2011 President Barack Obama awarded Bill Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in America.

 Read the full text of the resolution here.