TORONTO -- Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, coach Dwane Casey and All-Star guard Kyle Lowry spoke out against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration Monday. One by one, they voiced their opinions about the immigration ban which targets nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Lowry called it "bullshit," Ujiri called it "ridiculous" and Casey said it reminds him of what he saw growing up in Kentucky in the 1960s.
"I am finding it difficult to really like absorb some of this stuff, from the ban to everything that's going on," Ujiri said. "Being somebody that travels around the world and you meet a lot of people, especially youth that I deal with and work with around the world, I think it's just ridiculous what's going on out there. And we had plans to do to a basketball camp in South Sudan. I don't know when you go and do those things, or even in Basketball Without Borders, we have kids that come from all over the world -- so what does that mean? That we're lying to these kids when we say we are giving them hope or are teaching them or are going to help them grow or give them opportunity? We're outright lying to them now.
"I just don't get it. This is mind-boggling. I'm a prime example of what opportunity is in this world, basically. Canada has given me opportunity. America gave me opportunity. America has given my kids opportunity. That's what this world is about. For me to see -- I see how many foreign kids we have on our basketball team. Luol Deng ate in my house when he came to playoffs here. He's from Sudan. What does all this mean? It's ridiculous in my opinion."
Ujiri, a native of Zaria, Nigeria, said he has no fear of going anywhere, adding that he will not let the immigration ban affect any of his plans for basketball camps abroad. He said he knows what the NBA stands for and appreciates what it does around the world.
"We always get through these tough times, I think," Ujiri said. "You know, that's how human beings are cut. I think we'll get through it. I think President Obama said the core of us will survive this. Everybody is going to stomach this and figure out a way to survive this. But to me it's just not good. It's not good to see. Somehow, you know, you're starting to, like, get people to start to think in a bad way all over the world."
Ujiri said that he's mad about the immigration ban, but he wakes up positive every day. "We have to live our normal lives," he said, and for him this involves helping young people with his Giants of Africa foundation. While he insists that he is remaining optimistic, he also mentioned how the current context affects the message he's trying to send.
"I don't know how many older people we can change their ways of thinking, but the youth -- it's very, very important that we give them opportunity. And this, [what] I'm speaking about, is how are we going to give them opportunity? How do I go and we continue to talk and talk and talk and help them grow, and then all of a sudden we are giving them false hope because of bans like this?"
Lowry did not hesitate when asked for his thoughts on the ban.
"I think it's bullshit," he said. "I think it's absolute bullshit. Our country is the country of the home of the free. For that to happen, I think, is bullshit. I mean, I'm not going to get into it too deeply, but personally I think it's bullshit."
A reporter asked if he would like to rephrase his statement to be more family-friendly.
"No, not at all," Lowry said. "Y'all have to bleep that out. That's how I feel about it. If you use it, you use it. I'm sure you can bleep it out."
Lowry praised San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr for voicing their opinions, calling them "trend-setters." He said that he generally shies away from politics "because it's not my thing," but this bothers him. He wants his two sons to grow up proud of their country.
"It's a real bad situation," Lowry said. "I bleed red, white and blue. I was born and raised there. I have always been taught to treat everyone the same. It's a difficult time for my country right now and it's sad."
Casey, who grew up in Morganfield, Kentucky, when it was racially segregated, can remember Ku Klux Klan rallies. He was the sixth black man to play basketball for the University of Kentucky.
"I'm old," Casey said. "It's scary because it kind of reminds you about what happened back in the '60s, when I was growing up. Even though it's different issues, it resembles that in a lot of different ways. A little bit more sophisticated, but it's similar. And it's a slippery slope. For every action, there's a cause and effect and a reaction by other people, so we have to be careful. Again, I'm a U.S. citizen, a proud U.S. citizen, but we have to be careful how we're handling our business in the States."
Casey added, "The whole world right now, we all have to be conscious of each other and be sympathetic to each other." He said he believes strongly that this executive order runs counter to that.
"Our nation, the U.S. is a nation of immigrants," Casey said. "Everybody's there from somewhere else. And we have to be careful. I'm sure there's certain ... people who shouldn't be in the country, or this country, or whatever country. But just to put a blanket ban over a lot of Muslim countries that we have no issues with, we have to be careful. We have to have a plan."
Both Ujiri and Casey also commented on the shooting at a Quebec City mosque that left six people dead Sunday.
"Our thoughts go out to all the people in Quebec," Ujiri said. "It's very unfortunate that stuff like this is happening in Canada and all over the world."