masai ujiri alan strickland

Cop who pushed Masai Ujiri says Raptors falsely played the race card

The absurd game of legal back-and-forth between California Sheriff's Deputy Alan Strickland and Toronto Raptors president Massai Ujiri continues this week with a new court filing that includes the phrase "pervasive anti-law enforcement prejudices." 

Yes, Strickland's lawyers are now arguing that their client — who famously pushed Ujiri when he tried to walk onto the court at Oakland's Oracle Arena after his team won their first NBA championship last June — has become the victim of prejudicial biases against police.

The lawyers furthermore allege that Ujiri and his co-defendants (The Toronto Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the NBA) brought forth their recent countersuit against Strickland only to "falsely allege racial animus."

Essentially, they're denying that race played a role Strickland's treatment of Ujiri at the 2019 NBA Finals, and alleging that the suggestion of such is a "wilful attempt to mislead the media and the public and taint the jury pool."

Strickland, who was working as a security guard during Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year, maintains that he pushed Ujiri because the executive didn't show his credentials when approaching the court.

In court documents filed on Tuesday and obtained by The Athletic, Strickland's team argues that the NBA had asked security guards to be extra vigilant that evening.

Bodycam footage released last month by Ujiri's team as part of a countersuit against Strickland appears to show the cop being more than "extra vigilant," however, in trying to stop the Raptors president from walking onto the court after his team stomped the Golden State Warriors.

Strickland can be seen in the videos stopping Ujiri with his arm as Ujiri pulls his security badge out a little bit, but not fully.

"Back the f*ck up!" shouts Strickland in one video after shoving the NBA executive, hard. Confused, Ujiri asks why he's being pushed, explaining that he is President of the Toronto Raptors.

Strickland then pushes him again, triggering a shoving match between the two men that ends with Ujiri being ushered onto the court to an awaiting Kyle Lowry.

The Oakland Sherrif's Deputy later alleged in a lawsuit that Ujiri had initiated the altercation by hitting him "in the face and chest with both fists."

Ujiri's legal team released the now-infamous video footage as part of their countersuit to prove otherwise, which they undoubtedly did.

"After being shoved and cursed at, Mr. Ujiri did not respond aggressively towards Mr. Strickland," reads the countersuit as filed at a U.S. District Court in Oakland on August 18.

"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," it continues.

"Mr. Strickland then forcefully shoved Mr. Ujiri a second time."

Despite video evidence showing this to be true, Strickland continues to fight back against Ujiri in court — similar to how he filed his own personal lawsuit against the Raptors president when the Alameda County (California) Sheriff's Office decided not to pursue assault charges.

"The body camera video which plaintiff produced on July 17, 2020 did not reveal any new information to Defendants," wrote Strickland's team in their court filing this week.

That filing was in response to Ujiri's countersuit against Strickland, who in February filed his aforementioned lawsuit against Ujiri, the Raptors, MLSE and the NBA over "physical, mental, emotional, and economic injuries" he says he sustained during the encounter.

Strickland's suit asked for more than $75,000 in damages and blamed the Raptors for failing to warn him of their team president's "violent predisposition and propensity for physical violence."

Ujiri believes that he was treated unfairly by Strickland because he is Black, as he explained in a powerful statement about systemic racism  on Aug. 20 after bodycam footage from the altercation between himself and Strickland went viral.

"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," said Ujiri in a statement following the release of the bodycam footage last month.

"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."

The Raptors, MLSE and NBA support Ujiri's claim, as does pretty much anyone else who has seen the videos and is familiar with the Nigerian-Canadian sports executive, activist and former pro basketball player.

"Deputy Shitbag alleges Ujiri is 'taking advantage of the now pervasive anti-law enforcement prejudices ... to falsely allege racial animus and prejudicial bias'," wrote one NBA fan in response to the most recent development in this case.

"Clearly Ujiri's fault that the white deputy was wrongly aggressive to the Black president of the Raptors. Must sue!"

"Given the Sheriff's Deputy's initial lies about the incident it seems like a 'bold' litigation strategy to allege Masai Ujiri is the one making false claims," pointed out another. "Projecting much?"

Lead photo by

Diamond Leung

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