Back in 2019, a once in a lifetime celebration was cut short after Toronto Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri got into a physical altercation during the 2019 NBA Finals. Although initial reports and lawsuits framed Ujiri as the aggressor in the incident, new details prove otherwise.
On June 13, 2019, after the Raptors secured the NBA championship over the Warriors at the Oracle Arena, Ujiri made his way through the crowd to join his team. As he tried to enter a restricted area, he was confronted by Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Strickland.
Months later, Strickland filed a federal lawsuit against Ujiri, the Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and the NBA, claiming the incident left him with a “permanent disability” after the team president hit him “in the face and chest with both fists.” Strickland claimed it all started after Uriji refused to present his credentials.
But now, more than a year after the incident, Ujiri’s legal team is responding.
In a 108-page counterclaim, which included an 11-second clip from Strickland’s bodycam footage, Ujiri’s legal team reveals that Strickland was “undeniably the initial aggressor” in the incident, violently shoving Ujiri twice as he attempted to show his credentials.
“There is, however, no objective evidence to support Mr. Strickland’s alleged injuries and video evidence, including footage from Mr. Strickland’s body camera, shows Mr. Strickland subjected Mr. Ujiri to an unprovoked and unnecessary use of excessive force,” the president’s lawyers wrote in the counterclaim.
Masai Ujiri's legal team has released body camera footage of his encounter with a security worker at Oracle Arena after the Raptors won the NBA championship. pic.twitter.com/56XWMpZy0P
— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) August 19, 2020
Not only does the counterclaim contain video evidence but also three witness statements that support Ujiri’s story.
“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,” the Raptors said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle. “We believe this video evidence shows exactly that — Masai was not an aggressor, but instead was the recipient of two very violent, unwarranted actions. The events of that evening cast a pall over what should have been a night of celebration, and the year since.”
Raptors spokesperson on release of video footage involving team president Masai Ujiri and a Bay Area police officer in moments after end of 2019 NBA Finals: pic.twitter.com/sPq6y1tbw5
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 19, 2020
“While Masai has the full backing of Raptors and MLSE as he fights this injustice, we are aware that not all people have similar support and resources. This is a spurious legal action that MLSE, the NBA, and especially Masai should not be facing.”
No charges were filed against Ujiri in the incident, but it remains unclear if Strickland will face any consequences.