Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says racism is also a pandemic
In a powerful interview with ESPN today, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri shared his thoughts on what feels like a global awakening to anti-Black racism following the death of George Floyd.
In an interview with Rachel Nichols on the NBA talk show The Jump, the coach of the reigning NBA Champions talked racism and accountability before heading into discussions about resuming the 2020 season.
"There is a problem," said Ujiri. "We were stuck in our houses dealing with the pandemic, and here comes this pandemic that has actually been a part of our lives for a long time but people haven't been willing to talk about."
"That pandemic is racism. For sure we have to talk about this."
The English-born, Kenyan-Nigerian basketball exec — who became the Raptors' president in 2018 — joins a chorus of notable voices, from the president of the American Psychology Association to George Clooney, to describe anti-Black racism as a pandemic.
Powerful words from Raptors president Masai Ujiri on #TheJump, saying the NBA's teams and leaders "have to speak. And specifically white leaders. They have to speak...Let's come and talk, let's not hide anymore." pic.twitter.com/3p3HNe5ld5— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 3, 2020
Ujiri also spoke briefly about the Oakland cop who sued him after an on-court altercation that happened moments after the Raptors won Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
The incident, which has been described as outright racist, couldn't be elaborated on-air due to an ongoing legal case, but was dissected recently in Ujiri's op-ed for the Globe and Mail.
"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," wrote Ujiri.
But he also noted that, no matter how troubling that incident was, it pales in comparison to the number of Black lives lost at the hands of racism, including in Toronto, where the death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet sparked a massive protest of its own.
The Raps' president has also recently been on CTV calling for White leaders globally to speak out against racism within their own organizations.
"Let's not hide anymore behind all of this," he said.
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