A countersuit filed by Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri includes new video footage that shows the San Francisco Bay Area sheriff’s deputy with whom he had an altercation in the moments after the Raptors won Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals was the aggressor.
The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California.
The footage shows the deputy — Alan Strickland — grabbed Ujiri by the suit jacket and shoved him, telling him to “back the f— up” as Ujiri was attempting to show his team credential. Ujiri was trying to reach the Oracle Arena floor to celebrate with the Raptors in the wake of Toronto winning the first NBA championship in franchise history against the Golden State Warriors.
The two then exchanged words, and Ujiri held out his credential again. Strickland shoved Ujiri a second time, and Ujiri shoved Strickland back.
After the two men were separated, Ujiri eventually was able to make it onto the court to celebrate with the rest of the Raptors.
“After being shoved and cursed at, Mr. Ujiri did not respond aggressively towards Mr. Strickland,” the suit says. “Instead, he calmly asked Mr. Strickland why he had pushed him, informed Mr. Strickland he was the Raptors’ President, and held up his all-access arena credential to show it to Mr. Strickland. Rather than trying to communicate with Mr. Ujiri, Mr. Strickland chose to dismiss Mr. Ujiri’s claim that he was the Raptors’ President and ignore the all-access credential Mr. Ujiri was trying to show him. Mr. Strickland then forcefully shoved Mr. Ujiri a second time.
“Only after being unjustifiably told to ‘back the f— up’ and shoved twice did Mr. Ujiri show any response and return a shove to Mr. Strickland’s chest. Mr. Ujiri’s defensive response was a reasonable and justified reaction to Mr. Strickland’s use of unnecessary and excessive force.”
Strickland’s suit, which was filed in February, alleged that Ujiri assaulted him in the moments after Toronto’s victory and that as a result of the incident, he “suffered injury to his body, health, strength, activity and person, all of which have caused and continue to cause Plaintiff great mental, emotional, psychological, physical, and nervous pain and suffering.”
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern initially requested Ujiri be charged with battery of a peace officer after the incident took place, claiming Ujiri struck Strickland’s jaw and shoulder. Eventually, however, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office declined to press any charges after a monthslong investigation ended with a meeting between the office, Ujiri and his lawyers in October.
Ujiri’s countersuit, which includes the Raptors, the NBA and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment as plaintiffs, says that Strickland falsified their encounter and attempted to portray Ujiri as “the initial aggressor and an inherently violent individual.” It goes on to call Strickland’s account “a complete fabrication” that has been contradicted by video footage.
In a statement released later Tuesday, the Raptors said the new video evidence proves Ujiri “was not an aggressor, but instead was the recipient of two very violent, unwarranted actions.”