The NBA’s return to the court has come with its fair share of doubt.
And while a hefty dose of that was tied to whether any league could safely return with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, another conversation was had regarding whether such a return would detract from the important conversations being had throughout the country and beyond.
For the Toronto Raptors part, though, the organization has tried to use every opportunity to amplify the message of the Black Lives Matter movement — beginning with the two team busses that transported them from Naples, Fla., to the Orlando bubble, each emblazoned with ‘Black Lives Matter’ in giant lettering.
“We said we were going to use the bubble as a statement,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said during an appearance on The Arena. “We said we’re going to use this place as a platform and we thought that, coming in here, you have to make a statement. You have to create awareness. What you guys are doing over there is creating awareness, talking about this. We have to continue to do that.
“And we thought, what greater way than to ride through Florida for three hours and show people, you know, we know what’s going on in the country. We’re heading to the bubble, and what is going on here, what Adam Silver has done here to get the league back, we are excited about that, but there’s something on our minds too. And we wanted to show people that as we come in — not just the Toronto Raptors, we represent the NBA — that there’s something that’s on the minds of all the players, and all the teams.”
Ujiri and the team’s efforts to throw public support behind the Black Lives Matter movement has been appreciated by their own players, too.
“We didn’t know they were doing that, or at least I didn’t know,” Norman Powell said, via Michael Grange, of the decision regarding the team’s bus.
“…They’ve been really quick to respond to the feedback from the players and being really proactive and making sure they’re behind us every step of the way. I thought the bus was really cool and the publicity that it got. Those are the types of little things that show where we stand, and we’re going to continue to take strides and steps forward and really effect some real change.”
Multiple players throughout the league have used the platform offered by media coverage in the bubble to continue to advocate for racial justice and long-needed change.
Asked about his own thoughts on the current movement and what he hopes is accomplished by the momentum that’s being built, Ujiri stressed the importance of looking beyond, to this moment’s impact on future generations.
“We have to take advantage of it. This is our time,” Ujiri said. “This is a time for Black people to speak, this is a time for white people to speak. Black lives do matter. And we have to think about the future, we have to think about the next generation and how we prepare for this. The other thing I’ll say is it’s a time for us to really be true as humans, to call out when there’s racism. And that’s why we call out our leadership.
“I see a problem because there’s a lot of leaders not speaking, there’s a lot of people not talking. And I don’t know whether that’s because of economic opportunities or what it is, but it’s time for us to think about ourselves as humans, and what comes first. And it’s really, really a time for us to address racism now — not only in America, but all over the world.”