Raptors president Masai Ujiri: ‘Racism is real…Let’s talk about it now’

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri with strong words about how powerful leaders have to speak about racism and ask themselves all the difficult questions, and not hide behind it anymore. Courtesy: ESPN The Jump With Rachel Nichols

Hearing the news of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, and watching the protests that have since ensued across the U.S. and elsewhere, has been painful for Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

But he’s happy to talk about it. Because talking about it represents a step in the right direction.

“We have to speak,” Ujiri said Wednesday in a conversation with Rachel Nichols on ESPN’s The Jump. “And specifically, white leaders. They have to speak…Let’s not hide anymore behind all of this. Because racism is real. It’s been there. Let’s talk about it now.”

On Sunday, Ujiri penned an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail in which he encouraged leaders to call out racism in order to “stop that cycle.”

He also referenced an incident at last summer’s NBA Finals, in which he had an altercation with a sheriff’s deputy as Ujiri attempted to get on the court to celebrate Toronto’s championship-clinching win over the Golden State Warriors.

“If it was another team president heading for the court – a white team president – would he have been stopped by that officer? I’ve wondered that,” Ujiri wrote.

When Nichols brought up that incident on Wednesday, Ujiri noted that it paled in comparison to the injustices suffered by Floyd and others like him.

“This is totally irrelevant, even now,” Ujiri said. “It’s not comparable. Somebody lost his life.”

Ujiri went further to touch on the atrocities that aren’t publicized and the victims whose stories aren’t told.

“How many of these incidents aren’t captured on video?” he asked. “That’s how I feel. How many don’t have the privilege, you know? It’s not seen, it’ll never be seen, the story will never be told. Can you imagine how many people go through this?”

That’s why having conversations about race, discrimination and privilege are important. In Ujiri’s mind, those conversations must start now, among all groups of people.

“Now is time for us to speak. Now is time for all races to speak and to speak to each other…Because if we don’t, this cycle will continue.”

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