Video released by lawyers for Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri appears to show a sheriff’s deputy shoving the executive twice in the moments following the team’s 2019 NBA Finals win in Oakland, Calif.
The footage is one of three video files contained in a court submission shared with media outlets late Tuesday by Cotchett Pitre and McCarthy LLP, the law firm representing Ujiri in U.S. federal court.
The firm filed a 108-page response to a lawsuit filed by Alan Strickland, an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy working as a security guard at Oracle Arena during Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on June 13, 2019, against Ujiri, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the NBA.
“The entire encounter between Mr. Strickland and Mr. Ujiri was brief — approximately 11 seconds as shown on film,” said the court filing in the case, which has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of California.
“The entire incident was caught on camera. The video footage shows Mr. Strickland was undeniably the initial aggressor,” the court filing states.
Ujiri went onto the court to join his celebrating team when Strickland stopped him because the Raptors executive didn’t provide the proper on-court credential, leading to a shoving match. Prosecutors decided in October 2019 not to press criminal charges against Ujiri.
Strickland alleged in a lawsuit filed in February that he suffered injuries “which caused and continue to cause great mental, physical, emotional and psychological pain and suffering” after the incident. He and his wife, Kelly Strickland, are seeking US$75,000 in general damages as well as other compensation including punitive damages, lost wages, current and future medical expenses and legal costs.
In the 11-second, body-worn camera footage shared by the law firm representing Ujiri, the video appears to show him approaching Strickland and as he gets close he appears to pull out a black NBA Finals lanyard from his suit jacket pocket. The filing said Ujiri had an all-access credential for the facility and had walked by other security personnel without incident.
Ujiri has now spoken out about the assault and said that Strickland pushed him “because I am 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,” a statement to TMZ reads.
“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. And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case – because I am Black.”
He added, “The only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I’m the President of a 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.”