Massachusetts is considering a bill to move criminal proceedings for 18-20-year-olds to the juvenile justice system. Advocates argue the “Raise the Age” bill would benefit youthful offenders and reduce their risk of becoming repeat offenders. Now, the Boston Celtics are throwing their public support behind the initiative.
The Celtics highlighted their support for the new bill on Nov. 10, as the team played its first game of the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament. Players wore “Raise the Age” shirts as part of their warm-up gear before the game began.
The Celtics are wearing “Raise the Age” shirts tonight in support of the Raise the Age Bill in Massachusetts.
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) November 11, 2023
Celtics star Jaylen Brown discussed the team’s support for the initiative in comments to the crowd before the game, urging fans to go to the team’s website for more information about the Celtics’ support for the bill.
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 11, 2023
“I think it’s important in general, not just to the organization, but to humanity,” coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters after the game.
Joe Mazzulla speaks about #RaisetheAgeMA
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 10, 2023
Massachusetts legislators began considering the new bill earlier this year. In a hearing held by the state’s Joint Judiciary Committee in September, proponents of the bill argued the move would lessen the chance of recidivism among offenders in the 18-20 age group. Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca submitted testimony to the committee about the team’s support for the bill as part of the Celtics United for Social Justice initiative. Pagliuca noted that the Celtics have drafted many players in the 18-20-year-old age range covered by the bill. The organization recognizes the “need for additional supports and for developmentally appropriate approaches even within the construct of professional athletics.” He also mentioned previous team activism, including visits by players and staff to juvenile detention centers in Massachusetts and a March trip to the White House, where Celtics personnel discussed the Raise the Age campaign.
Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell also gave testimony in favor of the change at the September hearing. Among other reasons, she pointed to scientific research showing that adult brains continue developing until age 25, noting that younger individuals’ decision-making capabilities may still be underdeveloped. Advocates also point toward the results of Massachusetts raising the juvenile age from 17 to 18 in 2013, leading to a drop in juvenile crime. Critics of the proposed new change, however, cite research arguing that 17-year-olds were more likely to become repeat offenders after the 2013 change while also mentioning the existing system works to keep younger adult offenders out of jail.
Despite these criticisms, the momentum behind the Raise the Age bill is significant. With the backing of officials, scientists and now the Celtics supporting the initiative, the potential for implementing this change appears high.