Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri says that the reason he was pushed by a law enforcement officer last year as he tried to join his NBA champions in celebration is because he is Black.
“There are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement. And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case – because I am Black.”
In body camera footage obtained this week by CNN, Ujiri is seen attempting to gain access to the court to celebrate with his team following the Raptors decisive game 6 victory in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in 2019.
As Ujiri reaches into his jacket to show his all access credentials, Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Strickland twice shoves him away, grabbing him by the suit jacket and telling him to “back the f*** off.” Ujiri then shoves the officer back.
Other video shows the two men then being separated, before Ujiri was allowed access to the court.
“The video sadly demonstrates how horribly I was treated by a law enforcement officer last year in the midst of my team, the Toronto Raptors, winning its first world championship,” Ujiri said in a statement released on Thursday.
“It was an exhilarating moment of achievement for our organization, for our players, for our city, for our country, and for me personally, given my long-tenured professional journey in the NBA.”
The legal firm representing Officer Strickland did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Strickland had filed a suit in February against Ujiri, claiming that he had “suffered, and will continue to suffer, physical, mental, emotional, and economic injuries” as a result of the incident.
The suit alleges that the officer suffered injuries to his head, jaw, chin and teeth from the altercation. He alleges that Ujiri hit him in the face and chest with both fists.
However, the bodycam footage also raises questions about a claim by Strickland that Ujiri was the aggressor in the exchange. The footage is included as part of a countersuit, filed by Ujiri in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, on Tuesday.
Ujiri alleges in the suit that Strickland is perpetrating a fraud, claiming that the newly released body cam footage shows that Strickland used excessive force.
In his statement, Ujiri says the only reason he is now getting justice for the incident is because of his status as an NBA team president.
“What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I’m the President of an NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice.
“So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter.
“And that’s why it’s important for all of us to keep demanding justice. Justice for George. Justice for Breonna. Justice for Elijah. Justice for far too many Black lives that mattered. And justice for Black people around the world, who need our voice and our compassion to save their lives.”
Alameda County Sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding Ujiri’s comments on Thursday.
“We 100% stand by original statement that was released that Mr. Ujiri is the aggressor in this incident … don’t be quick to judge based off of what lawyers are saying,” Alameda County Sheriff’s office told CP24 following the release of the bodycam footage earlier this week.
Earlier this week the sheriff’s office told CNN that the matter was a civil case and any questions should be referred to Strickland’s legal team.
Last year the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said that Ujiri would not face criminal charges.
Jonathan Hawkins contributed to this report.