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Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors Issue Statement in Light of Floyd’s Death

As more and more anti-racism protests become organized in light of the death of George Floyd, the Toronto Raptors and team president Masai Ujiri issued their own statements over the weekend.

Floyd, a 46-year old African-American man, was murdered by a Minnesota police officer who was seen on video holding his knee over Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The video, which was recorded on a bystanders phone, clearly showed Floyd begging the cop to get off his neck as he was struggling to breathe to no avail. A few minutes later, Floyd’s body went limp and he was pronounced dead on the scene.

The senseless murder initiated protests and riots across the United States as anger reached a boiling point.

On Sunday, an outraged and emotional Ujiri released an opinion piece published in The Globe and Mail, calling for a change and for other prominent figures to use their platform to help fight racism.

“Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we were mourning the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot as he was jogging in Georgia? That we were shocked Breonna Taylor could be killed in her own home in Louisville, Ky.? The list grows, and things don’t change,” said Ujiri, a day after the team released its own statement.

“Ever since I first saw the video, I’ve been thinking about the cycle. 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… I didn’t see any peace or protection when that officer had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. I saw indifference. The ‘order’ in ‘law and order’ should not mean the deadly suppression of people of colour; it should mean preserving a society so we can all feel free and safe, to live in peace with each other.”

Ujiri continued by citing his very own experience following Game 6 of the NBA Finals at The Oracle when a white officer attempted to stop the executive from joining his team on the court in celebration of their championship victory.

“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,” said Ujiri. “I recognize what happened in Oakland last June is very different from what happened in Minneapolis last Monday. My own experience only cost me a moment; Mr. Floyd’s experience cost him his life.”

Ujiri emphasized throughout his statement that there is a need to act – to not remain silent.

“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,” he said.

Now is the time to use our voice to  create change.

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