The Toronto Raptors issued a statement on Tuesday saying a recently released video proves team president Masai Ujiri wasn't the "aggressor" in an encounter with a law enforcement officer at Oracle Arena last June.
Alameda County sheriff's deputy Alan Strickland, a law enforcement officer in California, is suing Ujiri over a scuffle following the team's NBA Finals victory over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.
Strickland claims in a federal lawsuit filed in February that he stopped Ujiri from going on the court to celebrate with his team because he didn't provide the proper credential, leading to a shoving match that was partially captured on video.
Strickland alleged Ujiri hit him "in the face and chest with both fists," tried to go around the deputy and repeatedly ignored orders to stop.
Tuesday's footage appears to show Strickland using his arm to stop Ujiri from getting to the court. As Ujiri tries to walk by, Strickland shoves Ujiri before the two appear to exchange words. Strickland then shoves Ujiri again, the video shows. This leads to Ujiri pushing Strickland back, it shows.
"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. We believe this video evidence shows exactly that – Masai was not an aggressor, but instead was the recipient of two very violent, unwarranted actions," said the team statement.
"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 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.”
KTVU Fox in Oakland, Cal., was first to release video of the altercation.
The Raptors had just won their first title on June 13.
Strickland's lawsuit alleged that NBA officials had told security personnel someone had recently gained access to the basketball court with fake credentials and that they "did not want this security breach to occur again."
The lawsuit claims Strickland suffered "physical, mental, emotional, and economic injuries," including lost wages, lost opportunity for financial gain and future earning capacity. It also cited past and future medical care and expenses and names his wife as a plaintiff. The suit seeks US$75,000 in damages.
Strickland reported suffering a concussion and an injury to his jaw that forced him to miss work, his attorney said at the time. He was on medical leave since the scuffle at the time of filing.
In October, prosecutors decided not to file charges against Ujiri after he attended a meeting with sheriff's and district attorney officials.
At the time, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said the parties "focused on matters that we believe merited constructive, structured mediation and conflict resolution and were better handled in a setting outside of the courtroom."
— with filed from The Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 18, 2020.
The Canadian Press