Raptors' Masai Ujiri says 'nobody getting fired' for speaking their mind
NBA team's president supports players after U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks
Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says he is fine with his players speaking their mind, adding nobody is going to get fired here.
His comment was a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's speech Friday in Alabama when he said NFL owners should fire players who protest during the national anthem.
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Ujiri says he's "110 per cent" behind his players, adding on the team's first day of training camp that players "have a platform. There's nobody getting fired here, you can quote me."
Raptors guard Delon Wright says it's a freedom of speech issue and athletes should be able to use their platform. And he thinks the president should be tweeting about bigger issues than athletes kneeling.
Trump's comments and subsequent tweets prompted swift reaction. As did his decision to retract an invitation to the White House to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
More NFL players knelt. Other stood and locked arms, with team owners in some instances.
The president doubled down Monday with several more tweets.
'The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!"
Trump also praised NASCAR after several team owners warned of consequences for anthem protests.
I applaud the NFL players, the owners that were out there standing together in unity. And again it's not disrespecting our flag whatsoever.— Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey on people responding to U.S. President Donald Trump's comments
Coach Dwane Casey, who met with his players Sunday night to discuss the issue, also said he encouraged the Raptors to use their First Amendment rights.
He called it unfortunate that people "can even question" whether athletes' have the right to speak out.
"And coming from our president, it's hurtful," he said.
Casey said he did not see the anthem protests as disrespectful.
"I applaud the NFL players, the owners that were out there standing together in unity. And again it's not disrespecting our flag whatsoever."
Casey said he tells his kids and his players that you don't disrespect your flag or your country, or the office of the presidency.
"It stands for something," he said.
"But if you feel strongly about something, you have the right to speak up about it," Casey added.
Ujiri said while there's plenty of things about the U.S. that are special, "Canada is a blessing."
DeRozan appreciates support
"I think we'd get to go to two White Houses, right? If we win a championship, hopefully, one day. I think we'll be fine with [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau," he said, drawing laughs.
Masai Ujiri on White House visits: "When we win a championship, we will deal with that issue. But I think we'll be fine with Trudeau." <a href="https://t.co/hnCcDoo7tv">pic.twitter.com/hnCcDoo7tv</a>—@WeTheNorth__
Star guard DeMar DeRozan said it was "awesome" that the Raptors had the support of their coach and president -- and their league.
DeRozan, who grew up in Compton, Calif., said friends have been shot by police. Even today, he said there are questions about driving a luxury car.
He said Trump had brought a lot of the firestorm on himself and the U.S.
"You've got your president on Twitter more than a 12-year-old, saying the most outrageous things for people who are just trying to do something right," he said. "It's crazy."
He supports what the NFL players are doing.
"I'm all for anything that's right," he said. "A lot of the NFL players are doing a heck of a job standing up for what they believe in. It's great to see all the guys sticking together."
Fellow all-star Kyle Lowry said athletes, just like anybody else, are united in wanting an end to social injustice.
He praised NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul and NFL owners for speaking out in the wake of Trump's comments.
As for the president, Lowry said it was "unfortunate" that the leader of the free world is calling men SOBs.
"That's just sad, to go on a Twitter rant and to be focusing on smaller things, the smallest topics -- a kneeling player ... and not focus on the social injustices that are going on. It's bad, it's really bad.
"You wake up very day and you're like 'What's next?' That's not the way you want to wake up. You want to wake up and say 'All right, let's have a great day."'