OAKLAND, Calif. — A new video released by the lawyers for Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors’ president, appears to show that an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy initially shoved him twice leading to an altercation moments after the Raptors had defeated the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 N.B.A. finals.
The Raptors had just won their first title by winning Game 6 at Oracle Arena in Oakland on June 13, 2019, when Ujiri moved toward the court to join his celebrating team.
Alan Strickland, an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy, claimed in a federal lawsuit filed in February that he stopped Ujiri because he didn’t provide the proper credential, leading to a shoving match that was partially captured on video. Strickland accused Ujiri of hitting him “in the face and chest with both fists,” trying to go around him and repeatedly ignoring orders to stop.
Video released Tuesday by Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy, the law firm representing Ujiri, from Strickland’s body camera shows Ujiri walking while pulling credentials out of his suit’s breast pocket and Strickland aggressively shoving him twice shortly before Ujiri shoves him back. The footage ends shortly after that.
The Raptors said in a statement they stand by Ujiri, adding that the video showed Strickland’s accusations were “baseless and entirely without merit.” Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs of the N.H.L., also supported Ujiri.
“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 team said.
“While Masai has the full backing of Raptors and M.L.S.E. as he fights this injustice, we are aware that not all people have similar support and resources. This is a spurious legal action that M.L.S.E., the NBA, and especially Masai should not be facing,” it added.
In a counterclaim filed Tuesday, Ujiri’s lawyers said the footage shows Strickland was “undeniably the initial aggressor” in the confrontation and that the new evidence will vindicate Ujiri’s rights “as a victim of unreasonable force, assault, and battery at the hands of Mr. Strickland,” the East Bay Times reported.
Mastagni Holstedt, a law firm that represents Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement Wednesday, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly, a sheriff’s spokesman, said the department had closed out its part in the case last July. Kelly distinguished between the public case, which ended with a citation hearing last November, and the private matter of Strickland’s suit against Ujiri.
“There’s been a snippet of video released publicly that doesn’t tell the story of the entire investigation,” Kelly said. “That story will have to come out through the process. We stand by our original statements.”
Kelly confirmed that Strickland remains employed by the department and said the deputy is on leave recovering from injuries sustained during the incident.