During a bi-partisan committee meeting on immigration earlier this week, President Trump reportedly made offensive remarks regarding north African nations, suggesting that the U.S. government should crack down on people traveling to America from “sh*thole countries” like those.
It caused widespread backlash in recent days, and though Trump has since denied saying it, at least one democratic lawmaker who was present at the meeting, Sen. Richard Durbin, has confirmed that the president did in fact make those comments.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who is originally from Nigeria, offered a powerful rebuke of Trump’s statement, calling into question his leadership of a country that was founded on the principle of being a beacon of hope for people around the world looking for a better life.
“This summer, I went to Kigali and Nairobi and Lagos, and I went to Kampala and Abidjan and Dakar and Johannesburg, and I saw great cities and great people,” Ujiri told ESPN on Friday. “And I went to visit the refugee camp in Dadaab, and I met good people and good families with plenty of hope. If those places are being referred to as shitholes, go visit those places, and go meet those people.”
“I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s what inspiring leadership can be. What sense of hope are we giving people if you are calling where they live — and where they’re from — a sh*thole?
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the United States and Canada and I am grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given by people, and the game of basketball, and the NBA. As leaders, I think we have to give people in many places a chance to have success, not continue to put those people down.
“We have to inspire people and give them a sense of hope. We need to bring people along, not ridicule and tear them down. This cannot be the message that we accept from the leader of the free world.
“… Just because someone lives in a hut, that doesn’t mean that isn’t a good person, that that person can’t do better, that person isn’t capable of being great. And just because it’s a hut — whatever that means — doesn’t mean it’s not a home. God doesn’t put anyone someplace permanently. I am a living testimony to that. If I grew up in a sh*thole, I am proud of my sh*thole.”
Ujiri’s own story is an inspiring example of what’s possible when individuals from those very countries are given an opportunity to thrive. And he’s likewise redirected his success toward many philanthropic endeavors back in his home country and beyond.
Ujiri and the NBA as a whole continues to use its platform to speak out against racism and oppression in addition to its wide-ranging altruistic endeavors around the globe. It’s a much better philosophy than relying on fear and xenophobia to try to insulate the United States from the rest of the wold.