Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has filed a countersuit in US District Court that includes potentially exculpatory video footage showing it was the Alameda County, California, police officer who instigated their altercation following Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Alameda County deputy Alan Strickland previously sued Ujiri for $75,000 in federal court, claiming the 50-year-old NBA executive assaulted him following Toronto’s victory over Golden State in the NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 in Oakland.
Security video and Strickland’s police body cam footage included in the countersuit filed Tuesday shows the deputy first grabbing Ujiri by the jacket and yelling at him to ‘back the f*** up.’ Ujiri was trying to walk onto the court to celebrate the Finals victory with the Raptors players.
The team released a statement Tuesday saying the security video proves Ujiri ‘was not an aggressor, but instead was the recipient of two very violent, unwarranted actions.’
Ujiri’s counterclaim also includes statements from three eyewitnesses who say he did not punch the deputy, although the video does show him shoving Strickland in retaliation.
The NBA executive’s attorneys also dispute one of Strickland’s supporting eyewitnesses, who claimed to be standing near the arena’s north tunnel at the time of the incident. The altercation is proven to have taken place near the south tunnel.
In the countersuit, which includes the NBA and the Raptors’ parent company as plaintiffs, Ujiri’s attorney calls Strickland’s initial claims ‘a complete fabrication.’
Strickland, who was part of the security detail for Game 6, has stated that Ujiri did not show proper credentials to enter the area of the court and struck the deputy in the face and chest when asked to produce them.
However, the footage contradicts several of Strickland’s claims.
Not only was it Strickland, and not Ujiri, who initiated contact, but the Raptors president is seen holding his credential in his hand — a fact that was already established by photographs available in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
‘After being shoved and cursed at, Mr. Ujiri did not respond aggressively towards Mr. Strickland,’ read the countersuit. ‘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 and his wife, Kelly, have been seeking a jury trial and damages greater than $75,000, along with medical and incidental expenses (both accrued and in the future), loss of earnings, prejudgment interest, property damage and legal fees. Strickland claimed 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 did initially request that Ujiri be charged with batter of a peace officer for striking Strickland’s jaw and shoulder. Ultimately the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office declined to press any charges against Ujiri, who was celebrating his first NBA title in the aftermath of that Game 6 win.
In his countersuit, Ujiri says Strickland falsely tried to portray him as ‘the initial aggressor and an inherently violent individual.’
The Raptors continued to support Ujiri in a team statement released Tuesday: ‘We are mindful this remains before the courts, but we have always maintained that the claims made against Masai are baseless and entirely without merit. We believe this video evidence shows exactly that — Masai was not an aggressor, but instead was the recipient of two very violent, unwarranted actions.’