As the confetti rained down in Oracle Arena to commemorate the Toronto Raptors finally reaching the summit of the highest mountain in the NBA, the architect of it all was the one person not allowed to celebrate the moment to the fullest.
Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations, and the man responsible for the remarkable turnaround in the franchise from top to bottom, was stopped by security court side for not having his credential visible, which led to a shoving match that was captured on video. Bystanders intervened and Ujiri was eventually allowed onto the court to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy with his team, but not before having the moment tainted by his experience.
In October, prosecutors decided not to press criminal charges against Ujiri, but Alan Strickland, the security guard involved, is seeking $75,000 USD, and alleged in a lawsuit that he suffered injuries “which caused and continue to cause great mental, physical, emotional, and psychological pain and suffering.”
Ujiri, who is currently in Dakar, Senegal, speaking at an event to promote the 2022 Youth Olympics, discussed the lawsuit.
“It's malicious in a way,” Ujiri said via The Canadian Press. “To me it's incredible that things play out like that. I think something incredible was taken away from me and I will never forget it. It is one of the things that drives me to win another championship because I want to be able to celebrate a championship the right way. This thing will be settled. The truth will come out. The truth will come out of this.”
It’s an understandable stance for Ujiri to take, having had a once-in-a-lifetime moment stained by such an insulting incident, especially considering the previously made criminal charges were outright dismissed.
“It's incredible that this malicious kind of claim, if I've been dismissed with the criminal case, then I really don't know what this means for me. There is no case there and I look forward to whatever is coming.”
The Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, as well as the NBA were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
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