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‘I Should Have Known Better’: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Apologizes for Comments He Made on Masai Ujiri Following Black Team Exec’s 2019 Fracas with California Deputy

NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently apologized for remarks he made about Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri following the events that took place at the conclusion of the 2019 NBA Finals.

In an interview with the Canadian media outlet Sportsnet that was published on Feb. 25, Silver was very remorseful and said the Raptors president had his “full and unequivocal support.”

(L-R) Masai Ujiri and Adam Silver. Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Audi Innovation Series/ Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for TIME 100 Health Summit

“When I watch that last bit of the interview, in light of what we now know, I would love to take those words back,” Silver said regarding the 2019 interview he did with sports journalist Bryant Gumbel on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” “I should have known better, as a lawyer, not to comment on a pending investigation, which was the case at the time. Even as I watch myself in that interview, I can see myself searching for the appropriate words and now see that I clearly misspoke.”

He added, “It’s my responsibility, at least in terms of these kinds of incidences, that I put in place practices, so something like what happened to Masai doesn’t happen to other Black executives in our arena or any NBA event.” Silver noted that when he looks back on the interview, it makes him “cringe.”

Ujiri made headlines after an altercation took place between him and an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy in the moments after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors 114-110 on June 13, 2019, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Ujiri was headed toward the court after his team won its first championship on the Warriors’ home court at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, when he was stopped and shoved twice as he attempted to present his credentials. He ultimately pushed the deputy back before being pulled away by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. An investigation was launched, and although no criminal charges were filed, Ujiri was sued by the deputy for his role in the incident. Bodycam footage later supported Ujiri’s innocence, and this month the deputy dropped his lawsuit.

However, before the footage was released, Silver, during his now-infamous 2019 interview, insinuated that Ujiri played a significate role in his assault. “It’s part and parcel of what comes with someone who is living on the edge a bit and is hard-wired to sort of march forward with incredible energy,” Silver said at the time. “Lessons learned for him — without assigning culpability or blame to anyone — as a leader, those are the kinds of situations he needs to learn to avoid.”

Despite Silver’s comments, his relationship with Ujiri remains intact. “This hasn’t been an issue between us in the past, and it isn’t now,” the Raptors president said in a statement. “We have talked about it; I know I have Adam’s support, and he has mine. Let’s move forward from this and focus on what we can do to make positive change. And I know the fans have been supporting me through all this — I really appreciate their concern. It’s been unbelievable.”

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