Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is a powerful speaker. When he talks, people listen. Usually, Ujiri is holding court to discuss basketball and, at first, Tuesday morning wasn’t any different. In front of Toronto media members on hand to hear from Ujiri and Dwane Casey about the head coach’s new three-year deal, the GM took a moment to talk about what is happening in his native Nigeria.
Unprompted, Ujiri closed his news conference by speaking out against the recent abductions of hundreds of school-aged girls in Nigeria. Born in Nigeria to a doctor mother and nursing educationist father, Ujiri was raised in the northern Nigerian city Zaria. In 2010 he became the first African-born general manager for a major league sports team.
A new father to a baby girl, Ujiri was passionate as he spoke about kidnappings that have taken nearly 300 girls from schools three weeks ago by an extremist group that has claimed responsibility in a recently released video.
“What is happening in Nigeria is an absolute atrocity,” Ujiri said. “For me to grow up in northern Nigeria and see what it happening with the abducted kids and women there — I have a daughter, I have a wife, I have a mom and sister that still live in Nigeria. For what is going on there, it’s something the whole world, I think, has to look at and we have to address strongly. Me, in my position, I honestly want to be outspoken about it. I think it’s where I grew up. It should not be happening. I’m passionate about where I come from and what happens to young kids and people that deserve opportunity. I just wanted to mention that.”
Ujiri has been the director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa program and founded Giants of Africa in 2004. Giants of America has long been committed to providing opportunity and education through sport for youth in his native Nigeria.