Masai Ujiri Discusses NBA Leaders' Roles as Activists After George Floyd Killing

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 10: President Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors looks on during the game between the Chicago Bulls and the Charlotte Hornets during the 2019 Summer League at the Cox Pavilion on July 10, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Toronto Raptors team president Masai Ujiri called on the NBA's leaders—specifically white leaders—to fight racism.

"We have to keep going, right? We have to keep talking about this because there is a problem," Ujiri said Wednesday on The Jump. "We were stuck in our houses, dealing with a pandemic, and then here comes this pandemic that has actually been a part of our lives for a long time but people haven't been willing to really talk about. That pandemic is racism.

"... It's leaders; we have to speak. And specifically white leaders. They have to speak. We have to call it out as it is. If you see a problem, if you see something, how are you dealing with it in your organization? How are you dealing with it outward? Let's come and talk. Let's not hide anymore behind all of this because racism is real. It's been there. Let's talk about it now, and that's the difficult part."

Ujiri wrote an op-ed piece for the Globe and Mail that was published Sunday, and he called for an end to the cycle of inaction following the killing of George Floyd on May 25.

"Ever since I first saw the video, I've been thinking about the cycle," Ujiri wrote. "A death like this happens, and we rage about it, and the headlines recede, and the world moves on, and then a few weeks later something else happens and we're outraged again and then we move on, again. We have to stop that cycle."

Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest. The charge was upgraded Wednesday to second-degree murder after two autopsies determined Floyd died by homicide. Three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

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"In every single country, we have to teach humanity, in kindergarten, somewhere, somehow—all of us," Ujiri said on The Jump. "Because when I look at that guy kneeling on George and those three guys actually watching—forget you are police, forget you are the law—you as a human being, you as a human being, you should be able to say: 'You know what, stop. This guy is bleeding from his nose, he is peeing on himself. It's enough. It's enough. Please.' That's humanity. That's we as human beings. How many of these incidents are not captured on video?"

Ujiri also discussed his own experience with racism, when an Oakland Police officer stopped him as he walked toward the court after the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Finals. Ujiri said his experience did not compare to Floyd's killing and encouraged all people to speak out against racism.

"Now is time for us to speak," he said. "Now is time for all races to speak and to speak to each other and to have these conversations with each other. Because if we don't, this cycle will continue. ... Let everybody step up and do it. Don't hide. Don't run away. When people say racist stuff, point them out. Call them out."

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