Masai Ujiri is both the Toronto Raptors general manager and a native of Africa (Nigeria, to be specific).
That puts him in a unique position to comment on the situation with Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry, who said on a conference call with Hawks owners, when talking of free agent and South Sudan native Luol Deng, “He has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out the back.”
You should stop right now and go read Ujiri’s entire commentary at the Toronto Globe and Mail. Go ahead, we’ll wait. But if you’re impatient, here are a few highlights. Know that Ujiri and Deng are friends who have helped Basketball Without Borders reach out to the African continent. First, here his is writing on the comment itself.
I remember an instance, in Kigali, Rwanda, when Luol honoured a commitment to show up despite being seriously ill. He didn’t want to disappoint any of the children who were expecting him.
Is that “a little bit of African”?
His fellow NBA players have named him the NBA’s top sportsman. Last year, his work for charity earned him the league’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award.
Is that the “African” he means?
Ujiri reached out to people who know Ferry and all the reports were of a good man, which was Ujiri’s impression of him from GM dealings.
I have no idea what is happening in the Atlanta Hawks organization, but I do know how the scouting world works. We all have different ways of sharing information about players and different vocabularies to do so. It crossed a line here.
That said, we are all human. We are all vulnerable. We all make mistakes.
You discover a person’s true character in their ability to learn from and then move on from those mistakes. One of the truly important things we must learn is how to forgive.
What Ujiri and Deng want is to make sure this incident doesn’t impact the young African players coming up now who dream of the NBA.
I don’t think it will, in part because of Ujiri and Deng. The way these two men have handled themselves through their careers and this incident will far outweigh the comments of a fool.