The North American National Basketball Association (NBA for short) calls itself THE top basketball competition in the world.
Whether it is, so far as quality of play goes, is not too relevant. It is the richest such competition, which is a tad more relevant. And its stars belong to the club that unites the richest athletes in team sports anywhere. That is even more relevant.
Its stars have been making all kinds of political proclamations in recent memory, displaying unusual levels of ignorance of basic facts. And that is very relevant.
The league, whose stars are mostly of darker skin complexion, features political (and openly racist) statements on its floors. Some of the NBA teams, as well, carry such statements on their players’ uniforms.
But all that pales in comparison to a proclamation issued the other day by Masai Ujiri, President of current NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors.
Storm in a teacup
The story isn’t new: Mr. Ujiri’s team won the league championship June 13, 2019, defeating the Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Mr. Ujiri rushed to the court to join his team in celebration. He was stopped by an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy who was under strict instructions he must not allow any outsiders on the floor.
Even the video released by Mr. Ujiri’s lawyers shows that he had begun pulling his credential out of his pocket only after the sheriff’s deputy challenged him.
What followed depends on whose version you believe more. In any case, there was an altercation, a bit of mutual shoving and shouting. It seemed obvious that Mr. Ujiri was not too happy that the Alameda County sheriff’s deputy did not recognize his face at first glance.
In any case, the Alameda County official took the entire matter to court, and the NBA stepped in, and, eventually, Mr. Ujiri prevailed.
And that’s when Mr. Ujiri had two options: keep silent and thus reinforce the opinion of many that he was an intelligent and successful man, or vent the way he did, and reveal for all to see how narrow-minded he is.
Mr. Ujiri selected the latter option.
“I was reminded at that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as reason why that is the case – because I am black.
“What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason i9 am getting the justice that I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I am the President of a NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice.
“So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter.
“And that’s why it’s important for all of us to keep demanding justice. Justice for George. Justice for Breonna. Justice Elijah.”
Signed: Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors.
This is a verbatim transcript of Mr. Ujiri’s published pronouncement, with one minor change of major consequences. Instead of using a capital B in the word Black, this transcript follows logic, and uses a lower-case b.
There is no nation in the world named Black. There is a race of people whose skin colour happens to be black. But to use a capital letter in describing their skin colour borders on complete insanity.
Mr. Ujiri, who was born in Nigeria, must be aware of such tragic events in history as the 1994 genocide of Rwanda, where one nation, the Hutus, began slaughtering members of the other nation that lived there, the Tutsis.
Official reports put the number of casualties at at least 800,000, unofficial documents and eyewitness accounts speak of a figure much closer to a million dead, including women and children. The victims were mostly killed using all kinds of hand-held weapons (hatchets, spears, arrows). The killers ran short on live ammunition.
The carnage lasted a hundred days, and it showed the naked hatred between the two nations at its worst.
Another example that proves beyond any doubt that black skin in and of itself does not constitute a nation happened in South Africa.
West European and North American activists have been relentlessly fighting the so-called apartheid, a situation where the white and black races lived apart, under very strict rules. What complicated the situation was that the African National Congress (ANC), the body that controlled South Africa’s black population in their struggle against apartheid, was quite openly controlled by the Soviet Union, with its leader Nelson Mandela’s most important adviser being a KGB Colonel named Joe Slovo.
In any case, the then-government of South Africa offered a solution respecting the fact that the many tribes that lived in the country each constituted a nation. The idea was that each of them would own the territory where they lived. It would be called Bantustan, and the only matter to solve would be the precise relationship between the individual Bantustans and the South African government.
Absolutely not, cried the busy-bodies from Western Europe and North America. The black people would rule South Africa, or else.
It never crossed their bleeding-heart minds that they were racist to the extreme. All blacks are the same, period.
It’s the same nonsense as saying that all the whites, or all the yellows, etc. are the same, and who cares about their historical, cultural and other differences.
It is rather shocking that Mr. Ujiri is not aware of all this.
Mr. Ujiri’s selection of people who deserve – in his words – justice is shocking, too.
Justice would have been best served for George Floyd if he was still behind bars for the violent crimes that he had committed (and had been convicted of committing). He would have been safe and alive, and all that at American taxpayers’ expense.
So far as Breonna Taylor is concerned, Mr. Ujiri forgot a few important details. The 26-year-old emergency medical technician was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department cops. Plainclothes LMPD officers were executing a so-called no-knock search warrant. Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend Adrian Walker opened fire, and the officers returned it.
What else were they supposed to do? They were specifically looking for Mr. Walker and another guy, Jamarcus Glover, both suspected of selling controlled substances.
The police had good reason to drop by Ms. Taylor’s place, too: they heard that Mr. Glover received packages containing drugs at Ms. Taylor’s apartment. Also, a car registered to Ms. Taylor had been seen parked on several occasions in front of Mr. Glover’s house.
The last case, that of Elijah Jovan McClain, is somewhat inexplicable and nobody in their right mind would support either side of the argument. Mr. McClain, a massage therapist from Aurora, Colorado, encountered the police after a local citizen reported that he had been wearing a ski mask and acting “sketchy,” whatever that was supposed to mean.
In any case, local authorities are still probing what had actually happened.
And how about the black American police officers killed in the line of duty, way too often by criminals who share their skin colour?
Mr. Masai Ujiri must have forgotten.
The entire hoopla is based on an altercation in which Mr. Masai Ujiri must share his part of guilt. The rule in all professional competitions is simple: all those who have received credentials that permit them to go where the masses of the unwashed can’t enter, must make sure that those credentials are visible at all times.
It may very well be that Mr. Ujiri, known to all and sundry inside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, can keep his credentials safely in his pocket when he’s walking around his team’s home.
But it’s not necessarily the case elsewhere.
In a heated atmosphere, where a sheriff’s deputy is under strict orders not to let any unauthorized people on the floor, and the crowd that wants to get there may look overwhelming, no wonder that words may be exchanged and arms used to drive the point home.
To try to make this minor issue a hugely important political issue smacks of blatant opportunism that plays on one of today’s (unjustifiably popular) topics of public discourse. Attempts to insert the race card into everything that is happening is called politicking.
In any case, what Mr. Masai Ujiri has done with his crack at jumping on the race card bandwagon was shameless and racist.
Mr. Masai Ujiri should have known better.