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Lakers Luol Deng Shares Message of Hope For Refugees

Lakers forward Luol Deng spoke about his experience as a proud refugee, saying refugees always have hope, no matter what

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    Luol Deng of the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center on January 22, 2017, in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    "So, who's going to be the first to ask?" Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng asked to the hoard of cameras and microphones encircling him at his locker late Tuesday night.

    Deng had answered far too many basketball questions for a player who scored seven points in 31 minutes and understood that the extra attention had less to do with a win over the Denver Nuggets and more to do with President Donald Trump's recent executive order impacting refugees and migrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.

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    The forward shared his own views as a "proud refugee" a day earlier on social media in a well-received message. Deng left Sudan as a refugee, spent five years in Egypt before landing in the United Kingdom, and eventually becoming a naturalized citizen there.

    Sudan is one of the nations whose citizens can't travel to the U.S. for 90 days under the ban. The U.S. refugee program was suspended for 120 days.

    "I know for a lot of refugees, they can't speak up and they can never be heard, so I wanted to put it out there and let people know how proud I am to be a refugee," said Deng, who is now a dual citizen of South Sudan (which gained independence from Sudan in 2011) and the United Kingdom, regarding his social media post.

    Deng connected his personal experience to current events: "We never really asked to leave my homeland, and a lot of these people go through a lot of things that they have no control of, and to see a light at the end of the tunnel and to go towards that light and then that light is turned off is very difficult, not just individually but for the family."

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    Deng continued, "I remember when I was a kid, as a refugee in Egypt, every day there was always a hope that we would get to leave tomorrow, we could go somewhere. Never knew where. Just wanted somewhere where we could have an opportunity.

    "That opportunity came five years later. Now, I'm thankful for growing up in Egypt and I've learned a lot, but at the same time, I know what it feels like to wait for that opportunity to come every day."

    Deng spoke to the helpless feeling of refugees not having control over their destinies and said that he had decided to share a message of hope. He wanted those struggling as refugees to understand that they were not alone and that he understood their struggle.

    "You always have hope," Deng said. "No matter what, there's always hope. You always believe things are going to work out. Even sometimes when it seems like it's not going to, all you can do is hope."

    While Deng said that being a citizen of South Sudan meant the executive order should not directly impact him, the 31-year-old also explained that he knew people the ban would affect from Sudan.

    However, he did not seem interested in making a political statement and instead wished to only share his experience as a "proud refugee."

    Deng also cautioned that questions still remained regarding the impact the order would have on refugees and immigrants, as the executive order was not even a week old.

    "I'm not really caught up in politics," Deng clarified. "I'm just speaking out as somebody who had an opportunity, was a refugee and how I feel about it. When it comes to politics and all that, I leave that alone."

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