Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is demanding action.
Ujiri spoke out in light of George Floyd’s death on Monday in Minneapolis, writing an op-ed for the Globe and Mail on Sunday. The Raptors president urged citizens, and especially leaders, to take part in discourse about racial and social inequality, no matter how “difficult” those conversations might be:
The conversations we are having now on racism and inequality are about topics that I think are often sidestepped. Yes, I admit it can be difficult, but it is a conversation we need to have with our children, our neighbours, our co-workers, our classmates, our community and our leaders.
So many of you are asking: What can I do? There is a sense of helplessness, but that must not paralyze us. Your voice matters, especially when you are a leader or influential figure, and especially if you are white. Leaders have to be bold enough to state the obvious and call out racism.
The conversation can no longer be avoided because it is hard. We have to have it. Now.
Ujiri also reflected on the events that followed the Raptors’ win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
While Ujiri was initially sued for an alleged assault by a police officer as he tried to get on the court to celebrate, he claimed in legal papers it was in fact he who was assaulted, forcing an act of self-defense. The lawsuit is still being processed by the courts.
The Raptors president understands his own experience is not comparable to what happened to Floyd, but he also wonders whether he would have been stopped by the officer if he had been white.
Floyd’s death has hit the country hard. It is equally painful among NBA personnel, some of whom — including Ujiri — are reflecting on how race relations have impacted them personally.