Raptors' Masai Ujiri Says He Was Pushed by Officer After Winning NBA Title 'Because I Am Black'
Toronto Raptors' president Masai Ujiri was shoved by a sheriff's deputy immediately following the team's NBA title win in 2019, video shows
Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri is speaking out following the release of body cam footage from an altercation with a San Francisco Bay Area sheriff's deputy following the team's NBA title win in 2019.
Footage released publicly for the first time on Tuesday shows Alameda County sheriff's deputy Alan Strickland shoving Ujiri twice as the 50-year-old sought to join his team in their NBA title celebration at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on June 13, 2019.
The video, released as a part of a countersuit against Strickland, shows Ujiri retrieving his security credentials while walking to the basketball court after the Raptors won the championship. Strickland, however, shoves Ujiri in the chest as he tries to walk by, demanding him to "back the f--- up."
Ujiri asks why he was pushed and identifies himself as the president of the Raptors, but Strickland shoves him a second time as fans of the Golden States Warriors — the home team — look on with concern. Ujiri pushes Strickland back in retaliation before an arena official separates the two men. Ujiri was eventually allowed onto the court to join the Raptors.
An attorney for Alan Strickland did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.
According to ESPN, Strickland launched a suit against Ujiri in February, claiming the Raptors executive assaulted him. The suit alleges Strickland “suffered injury to his body, health, strength, activity and person, all of which have caused and continue to cause [him] great mental, emotional, psychological, physical, and nervous pain and suffering."
Ujiri recently filed a countersuit against Strickland claiming the deputy lied about the incident to paint him as "the initial aggressor and an inherently violent individual," the outlet reported.
On Thursday, Ujiri released his first public statements about the incident and said he believes Strickland saw him "unworthy of respectful engagement" because he is Black.
“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," Ujiri's statement begins. "It was an exhilarating moment of achievement for our organization, for our players, for our city, four our country, and for me personally, given my long-tenured professional journey in the NBA."
"Yet, unfortunately, I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement," he continued. "And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case — because I am Black."
Ujiri touched upon the issue of social justice, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain, all of whom died during incidents with police.
"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," Ujiri's statement continued. "Because I’m the President of [an] NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice. So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter."
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"And that’s why it’s important for all of us to keep demanding justice. Justice for George. Justice for Breonna. Justice for Elijah. Justice for far too many Black lives that mattered. And justice for Black people around the world, who need our voice and our compassion to save their lives," he added. "Those are the ties that bind us."