Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has accused a sheriff’s deputy of targeting him because of his race in a confrontation where he was shoved twice at courtside at last year’s NBA Finals.
- The confrontation came after the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA title
- Footage released this week sheds new light on what happened
- The Raptors and other NBA teams have come out in support of Masai Ujiri, saying the new video shows he was not the aggressor
Footage released this week showed Mr Ujiri was attempting to join in his team’s celebrations after the Raptors clinched the NBA title against Golden State Warriors in Oakland in June 2019.
Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland, who was acting as a security guard at the game, aggressively pushed Mr Ujiri, who then responded with a push of his own.
On Tuesday Mr Ujiri filed a countersuit against Mr Strickland, who had filed suit against Mr Ujiri and the Raptors in February.
Mr Strickland claimed he sustained injuries to his head, chin, jaw and teeth due to Ujiri’s shove.
“The video sadly demonstrates how horribly I was treated by a law enforcement officer last year in the midst of my team, the Toronto Raptors, winning its first world championship,” Mr Ujiri said in a statement.
“It was an exhilarating moment of achievement for our organisation, for our players, for our city, for our country, and for me personally, given my long-tenured professional journey in the NBA.
“And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case — because I am black.
“What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success,” he added.
“Because I’m the president of a NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice.
“And that’s why it’s important for all of us to keep demanding justice. Justice for George (Floyd). Justice for Breonna (Taylor). Justice for Elijah (McClain). Justice for far too many black lives that mattered.”
In the video, Mr Strickland stops Mr Ujiri as he approaches the court and pushes him in the chest while Mr Ujiri reaches into his jacket for his credentials.
Onlookers try to calm Mr Strickland down, but he is seen pushing Mr Ujiri a second time.
Mr Strickland is heard telling Mr Ujiri to “back the (expletive) up” in between the two shoves. Mr Ujiri then pushes Mr Strickland back and tries to identify himself.
Mr Strickland later filed a workers’ compensation claim in which he said Mr Ujiri “hit him in the face and chest with both fists.”
The footage released this week does not back up that claim.
Ujiri gets support from Raptors, other teams
In the team statement, the Raptors backed Mr Ujiri.
“We are mindful this remains before the courts, but we have always maintained that the claims made against Masai are baseless and entirely without merit,” a Raptors spokesperson said.
“The events of that evening cast a pall over what should have been a night of celebration, and the year since.
“While Masai has the full backing of Raptors and [the club’s owners] MLSE as he fights this injustice, we are aware that not all people have similar support and resources.
Ujiri has also received support from other NBA teams.
The Miami Heat tweeted from its official account: “We’re with you, Masai. And they still wonder why we put #BlackLivesMatter on our courts.”
Since the resumption of the NBA season from a base near Orlando, Florida, games have featured the words Black Lives Matter stencilled on the court alongside the league’s logo.