Walter Brown, the founder, and owner of the Boston Celtics changed NBA history in 1950. Back in those days, the Draft was conducted at the owner's meeting, and when the time came for the Celtics to pick, he said they were drafting Chuck Cooper. Eddie Gotlieb representing Philadelphia got up and pointed out that Cooper was African-American (using different words). Brown responded:
“I don't give a shit if he's polka-dotted, Auerbach says we need him and he'll help us win. We take Chuck Cooper.”
Walter A. Brown
Cooper became the first African-American player ever to get drafted to the NBA. That same year, the Celtics got Bob Cousy, but not through the draft. Auerbach didn't like his flashy passing, so the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (Atlanta Hawks) got him with the 3rd pick. Cousy ended up with the Celtics in a three-team draw - he was the only player they didn't want. He quickly changed their mind.
Cousy and Cooper became close friends, and Cousy admits he didn't appreciate the burden of being an African-American player. Chuck was a great player, his friend and that was all he saw. But reality was different, as their experience from North Carolina will show.
The hotel the Celtics were supposed to spend the night it didn't allow Cooper to stay there. Auerbach was furious, started arguing with hotel management but they wouldn't change their decision. No to make a fuss, Cousy told Auerbach that he will take a train with Cooper back to Boston, and the team will meet them there the next day. The game ends and they are at the station around 10:00 pm, with two hours to kill. Let's just say post-game recovery procedures were a bit different in the 50s.
“We've got two hours to kill, so obviously, we're at the bar drinking a lot of beer. After two hours of that, we have to whizz.”
They went to the bathroom and saw something they7ve never been exposed to before. Cousy from New York, and Copper from Pittsburgh, were staring at a sign pointing out bathrooms that separated African-American and white men. They were both confused.
“We've never been exposed, we've never seen that before. I teared up to be quite honest. I was ashamed to be white. Even now, I get emotional thinking about it.”
Cousy came up with a solution. They went to the station that had been empty at that late hour and urinated right of the station, side by side. A small act of defiance that ment a lot to them. Only later did someone point out if a police officer happened to show up at that time, they'd get more than a ticket.