Masai Ujiri issues a powerful statement about bodycam footage from racist Oakland cop
There is no doubt in Masai Ujiri's mind about why an Oakland sherrif's deputy shoved him when he tried to walk onto the court after his team won the 2019 NBA Playoffs last June: "Because I am Black."
The President of the Toronto Raptors published a powerful letter (as he is known to do) on Thursday in response to the publication of bodycam footage that unequivocally demonstrates how even the most powerful and important people are still targeted by racism.
"Thank you to everybody who has expressed disappointment and concern regarding the video that was recently released," said Ujiri in a statement regarding the clips, which show Alameda County (California) Sheriff's Deputy Alan Strickland pushing and swearing at the NBA executive for no valid reason, minutes after the Raptors had won their first ever NBA championship.
"My family and I are deeply grateful for your care and consideration."
A powerful statement from Masai Ujiri.— African American Policy Forum (@AAPolicyForum) August 20, 2020
If this is how police behave when everyone is watching, what do they do when no is looking? What happens when the victims of police brutality and aggression don't have the same means as Ujiri to ensure that the truth can be made public? https://t.co/5NiMqrvQUf
"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. 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," said the Nigerian-Canadian sports executive, activist and former pro basketball player.
"Yet, unfortunately, I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, 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."
Ujiri, who has led the Toronto Raptors into the playoffs every single year since taking the helm as president in 2016, did not address the lawsuit for which the video was prepared.
It took ONE YEAR for this bodycam footage showing Bay Area Sherriff's Deputy Alan Strickland shove @Raptors president Masai Ujiri after the NBA championship to surface. Strickland claims Ujiri was the aggressor in a frivolous lawsuit.🤥pic.twitter.com/2kprGc3m9m— Cleavon MD (@Cleavon_MD) August 20, 2020
It could be argued that the legal situation surrounding the altercation is even more problematic than the incident itself, fraught with lies and police misconduct.
The Alameda County Sheriff's Office had initially said they would be charging Ujiri with assault. When they backed down, Strickland himself filed suit against Ujiri for causing him "physical, mental, emotional, and economic injuries."
Strickland also sued the the NBA, the Raptors and MLSE for failing to warn him of Ujiri's "violent predisposition and propensity for physical violence."
It is only because of Ujiri et al.'s countersuit against Strickland that the footage vindicating the Raptors president was released to the public (though it's of note that Ujiri had already been vindicated, in most people's eyes, by witnesses who disputed the cop's account of the exec punching him "in the face and chest with both fists.")
Statement from Masai Ujiri https://t.co/AjMTRmSSSF via @raptors. Proof that words can be strong. Proof that words can be powerful. Proof that words can be a vehicle of change. But above all, proof that Masai Ujiri is all that and more.— Jagtar Singh (@BAJIsDaddy) August 20, 2020
"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," said Ujiri in his statement.
"Because I'm the President of a 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," he concluded.
"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."
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