NBA legend Bill Russell is taking aim at President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE for his repeated attacks on athletes who kneel during the national anthem.

“#Trump you projected your narrative that #TakingAKnee is disrespectful & #UnAmerican it was never about that!” Russell tweeted on Sunday, accompanied by a photo of himself taking a knee.

“You are divisive & a coward," he added. "It takes true courage 2 stand 4 what is right & risk your life in the midst of a #pandemic.”


In the picture, Russell wears the Presidential Medal Freedom, which former President Obama awarded him in 2010. Obama at the time called Russell “an impassioned advocate of human rights” who “marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.”

Russell, a five-time Most Valuable Player who helped the Boston Celtics secure 11 NBA championships, posted the tweet in response to Trump tweeting that athletes should not protest our “great American Flag,” the latest of several salvos against athletes who have taken a knee to draw attention to police brutality.


Russell played center for the team from 1956 to 1969 and, as a player-coach for the Celtics, became the first black coach in North American professional sports. During his athletic career, Russell, who referred to Boston as a “racist flea market,” was the frequent target of abuse from press and fans for his racial activism. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept a file on him describing, Russell as “an arrogant Negro who won’t sign autographs for white children.”

Russel's tweet comes shortly after New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees accused kneeling players of “disrespecting the flag.” Brees later apologizing after criticism from several other athletes, including teammates.

Trump, meanwhile, criticized Brees for apologizing, prompting the quarterback to issue a statement saying conversations with black leaders and teammates had taught him “this not an issue about the American flag. It has never been.”

The issue of athletes kneeling has gained new attention amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd's death. The unarmed black man died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest for nearly nine minutes. The officer and three others have been fired and face charges.