Raptors' GM apologizes for profanity used in rally speech to fans
Corinne Ton That, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:35AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 19, 2014 6:23PM EDT
The general manager of Toronto Raptors had fans fired up Saturday in a pre-game appearance at Maple Leaf Square -- albeit by using a bit of salty language.
Masai Ujiri took to the stage to speak to thousands of fans gathered outside Air Canada Centre on Saturday afternoon, just before the Raptors tipped off to open Game 1 of the NBA playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets
After making a few brief remarks, Ujiri yelled “F--- Brooklyn” into the microphone before walking offstage. The F-bomb was captured in a video, which quickly surfaced on social media.
Ujiri later apologized at a halftime session outside the Raptors’ media centre.
“I apologize. Wrong choice of words out there,” he told reporters.
“I apologize to kids out there and to the Brooklyn guys. Nothing against them. Just trying to get our fans going. That’s it,” he added.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey was quick to come to Ujiri’s defence, explaining that the GM is extremely passionate about his team.
"That's Masai," he said when asked after the game about the incident. "That's why our team plays like that. He's a fiery guy and that should represent how we feel."
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry echoed his support, telling reporters Ujiri was simply standing behind the players and showing his support for the team.
"He's a very passionate guy," Lowry said. "He believes in what we have and what we're doing. That's what he is, he's a very passionate and emotional guy."
Meanwhile, veteran Nets star Kevin Garnett seemed unfazed by Ujiri's comment.
"It's all good. It is motivation," he said. "Keep rooting for the Raptors, keep rooting for the home team. It is what it is."
Tensions have been riding high between the Raptors and the Nets; they were team that defeated Toronto during the franchise’s 2007 playoff performance.
But the Raptors have been drastically remade since that last matchup: there's new ownership, a new head coach, a new general manager, and not a single player left over from the 2007 roster.
The Raptors ended up losing 94-87 to Brooklyn.
Adding to the drama of the game, the shot clocks stopped working -- prompting a break -- in the third quarter. The shot clock was subsequently counted down by longtime PA announcer Herbie Kuhn as he looked at the stopwatch held by the official next to him. Kuhn likely needed a post-game throat lozenge.
Going into the series, Brooklyn rested many of its top players at the close of the regular season, possibly with the hopes of drawing Toronto in the first round rather than the surging, fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls. The Nets have denied any sort of tanking.
But Raptors’ GM Ujiri said players on his team “haven’t lost one second of sleep worrying about the Brooklyn Nets.”
“They can do whatever they want,” he said Thursday. “We’ll be right here.”
The sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets were labeled by many experts in the pre-season as a championship contender. Their roster is loaded with future hall of famers and all-stars, including newly-acquired veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
In total, Brooklyn's roster has produced 36 all-star appearances.
The third-seeded Raptors have just one. And three of the team's five starting players are making their postseason debuts.
That one all-star appearance happened this year, by guard DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan is the Toronto's leading scorer and will be leaned on in this series.
Raptors’ centre Jonas Valanciunas will battle Kevin Garnett, and point guard Kyle Lowry will face the Nets' former all-star Deron Williams.
Where to watch the game:
Outdoor bleachers have been set up at Maple Leaf Square outside the Air Canada Centre for ticketless fans wanting to watch the game on the big screen.
Fans can join the “Northern Uprising” at a party at Maple Leaf Square, which will begin two hours before tip-off for all home and away playoff games, and will feature live DJ performances and giveaways. Admission to the party is free, but capacity is limited.
The team re-branded itself in a newly-released “We The North” campaign, embracing its “outsider” label in a 60-second video.
“Far from the East side, Miles from the West side. Nowhere near the South side. We are the North side – a territory all our own. If that makes us outsiders, we’re in.”
With files from The Canadian Press