Masai Ujiri addresses anti-Black biases in NBA front offices

William Lou
NBA reporter

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri continues to be a leading voice in demanding change amid worldwide protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality.

Ujiri highlighted the hiring biases that exist within the NBA during an appearance on The Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski. Ujiri, who worked his way from being an unpaid scout to becoming the president of the defending champions, notes that there are racist stereotypes affecting how NBA teams are being run.

“I feel that there might be a perception that, in those strategic positions, maybe they think minorities cannot do it. Are there Black analytics guys? How many Black assistant GMs do we have,” Ujiri questioned.

Ujiri raised the example of former general manager Joe Dumars, who became the first African-American executive to win an NBA championship in 2004. Dumars’ tenure with the Pistons ended poorly, but he never got a second shot. Dumars was out of basketball from 2014 until 2019, when he joined the Sacramento Kings as a special advisor to the front office.

“You mentioned Joe Dumars — one of the best doesn’t even get a shot again. He went to six or seven straight conference finals. Come on. Come on. Let’s look at this, let’s really, really look at this and say, does that guy not deserve to be running an NBA team with what he’s done? These are the chances we are talking about,” Ujiri said.

Another stereotype is the limited perception of Black coaches. Although the NBA has done better than other professional sports leagues in terms of diversity of hiring, there are still coded ways in which Black coaches are thought of as compared to their non-Black counterparts.

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: Toroto Raptors president Masai Ujiri holds his fist in the air during the Toronto Raptors Championship parade on June 13, 2019 in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“One of the other perceptions is, let’s get a Black assistant coach that’s gonna talk to the players. He’s the relationship guy. He’s the token guy ... It’s all in there. Trust me, I’m in it. I’m at fault too. Let’s take responsibility for it,” Ujiri said.

Ujiri also challenged his peers in the NBA to continue their efforts in addressing racism. He suggested that in addition to efforts undertaken by the league, that individual teams should also make a concerted commitment to diversity hiring practices. Ujiri also stressed the need for continued action, spanning beyond the upcoming plans to restart the season in Orlando, to maintain the momentum generated by the current protests.

“It’s a unique time. I look at all these protests. You look at all of them. Normally before you would see all Black people, and people would say, “Oh, it’s Black people.” It is people from everywhere. You almost see more white people. Because the youth of today are tired of this, they are more outspoken, and they want the next generation to be better.

“This is a different generation now. They are going to speak, they are going to talk, they are going to have action, they are going to be educated. We (people) from 50 years ago, men or women or people that cannot change their mind, mindsets, or their thoughts. We have to think of these youth, now, and we have to give them opportunities, now,” Ujiri said.

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