Newly launched FBI paperwork present Celtics legend Bill Russell was being shadowed by the feds for attainable ties to the Black Panthers and allegedly playing on hoop video games.
He was additionally interviewed by the FBI after a “threat was made against his life” and the State Department allowed the FBI to evaluation Russell’s passport.
That passport doc from 1968 listed his date of delivery in Monroe, La., Feb. 12, 1934, his peak, 6-feet, 9-inches tall, his spouse, dad and mom, tackle in Reading, Mass., on Haverhill Street and his occupation: Professional athlete.
It’s all a part of the primary installment of paperwork — some closely redacted — on the legendary middle who gained a staggering 11 championships in Boston as a participant and player-coach. The Herald obtained the data below the federal Freedom of Information Act.
The information that the FBI snooped on Russell upset one former teammate who blasted the G-men for concentrating on a Civil Rights icon and real celebrity.
“Rus was a Black activist and that gets people’s attention. Also when you win all those championships, it gets attention,” mentioned Bob Cousy, a fellow Hall of Famer who mentioned Russell was forward of his time.
“He was part of the most significant team in American history,” Cousy mentioned Friday. “I have no idea why the FBI was around. It’s a surprise to me.”
Cousy, 94, of Worcester, mentioned he’s “reached the age where your cynicism has no bounds,” including the FBI hasn’t distinguished itself currently.
“I love this country yet I’m cynical. Given the revelations from the last few years with the FBI, I used to have great respect for the agency,” he mentioned. “The FBI has been politically involved lately.”
If the FBI had Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. adopted, as they did, Russell was in all probability subsequent on the checklist, Cousy added.
He mentioned his teammate — who died final summer time on the age of 88 — did wrestle with paying taxes on time and wasn’t the very best businessman, however apart from that he was an inspiration. Cousy mentioned the late Red Auerbach, the architect of the Celtics dynasty, would work his authorities connections to defend his star middle from bother, however that was the extent of what he knew about.
The FBI paperwork present that Russell confronted scrutiny from the company in 1971 for what paperwork state had been attainable hyperlinks to the Black Panther Party. He was additionally dogged for agreeing to assist the NAACP with what seems to be innocent hoop clinics in Mississippi.
Under the topic line “RACIAL MATTERS,” the FBI wished to “discreetly determine the extent” of Russell’s involvement within the “Black Panther Party (BPP) or other black extremist or militant activities.”
That memo mentioned Russell, then dwelling in Los Angeles beginning a TV profession post-NBA, had “been in touch with BPP leader Huey Newton” and was planning on “traveling to Algiers” to interview “fugitive BPP leader” Eldridge Cleaver. That memo was stamped “confidential” in 1971.
Sources had been cited by the FBI who had been used to spy on Russell’s whereabouts. Those sources, one FBI memo provides, couldn’t be revealed to all of the brass cc’d within the paperwork as a result of it “will adversely affect national security.”
Another doc reveals the FBI was involved about Russell bringing again “tapes” from Algiers “prepared by Eldridge Cleaver, Minister of Information of the BPP.”
The BPP was based in Oakland, Calif., within the mid-Sixties clashing with police, with Russell telling Newton to push again at criticism by saying he was doing “what you think is right,” one dispatch states. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1968 known as the Black Panthers the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country.”
That put Russell on the company’s radar due to his superstar.
As Cousy reminded the Herald Friday, Russell additionally struggled mightily with Boston’s racial strife throughout his enjoying days and the FBI paperwork mirror that stress.
“Intelligence unit, Boston Police Department, advised Russell had a reputation of being ‘an arrogant black’ in that he generally refused white children his autograph in an abusive way,” one doc states. “(Redacted) described Russell as a person who sometimes changes his position on a daily basis.”
That memo, dated 4/29/71, provides Russell “could not be considered a radical nor did he know of any radical organization in which he was a member.”
The G-men studied his LA driver’s license file, prison historical past information from his faculty days enjoying in San Francisco, and checked his telephone quantity. They discovered nothing on him.
They even obtained a photograph from a party for Angela Davis — who had ties to the Black Panthers — to see if he was the “Bill Russell” who sang on the occasion. He was not.
The FBI goes on to write down in a doc stamped September 8, 1971, that an investigation “has failed to develop significant information regarding RUSSELL’s activities and he does not meet the criteria for inclusion on the Security Index.” That a part of the file on the NBA legend was then “closed.”
A 1974 memo does state that Russell was named in a “sports bribery investigation conducted by the FBI in 1966” together with two different unnamed gamers. In that case, $11,000 was guess on the “Philadelphia team to win the basketball game with the Boston Celtics in November, 1966.”
The memo goes on to state: “Of the $11,000 sum, either $2,000 or $3,000 was bet by Russell for Boston teammate Sam Jones. The bet placed by Russell resulted in his loss.” That memo provides that again then, betting on video games you performed in “did not constitute a violation of the Sports Bribery statute … and further inquiry did not establish prosecutable evidence during the basketball season.”
The FBI doc dump comes as each participant within the NBA is sporting jerseys with a quantity 6 patch on them in honor of Russell. That quantity has been retired league-wide — with just a few gamers, notably the Lakers LeBron James, allowed to maintain their quantity 6 jerseys till they retire. It’s the primary time the NBA has made such a transfer.
Jaylen Brown, No. 7 for the Celtics, was quoted as saying about Russell’s legacy that “he represented a type of nobility and honor that transcended sports.”
The FBI didn’t reveal in any doc, or in written correspondence with the Herald, if that is the one installment from the information on the late, nice William Felton “Bill” Russell. The Herald is searching for extra.