Dramatic new footage has emerged that shows for the first time an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy clearly shoving Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri twice in the chest following the Canadian team’s decisive game 6 victory in the NBA Finals last year.
Ujiri who was born in England to a Nigerian father and Kenyan mother became the first African to lead an NBA franchise to the title but his historic feat was nearly overshadowed by the altercation that grabbed international attention.
The new footage acquired by CNN, casts serious doubts on Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Strickland claims in a federal suit he filed after the incident claiming he suffered physical injuries to his head, jaw, chin and teeth after the encounter.
Attorneys representing Ujiri contend that the video proves Strickland was “undeniably the initial aggressor”.
The body camera footage shows the 13 June 2019 incident from Strickland’s perspective. In it, Ujiri is seen attempting to gain access to the court to celebrate with his team after their 114-100 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
As Ujiri reaches into his jacket to show his all access credentials, Strickland twice shoves him away, grabbing him by the suit jacket and telling him to “back the f*** off.” Ujriri then shoves the officer back.
“Why did you push me?” Ujiri asks. “I’m the president of the Raptors.”
The video clips of this 11-second encounter — released at the start of the NBA playoffs – is the first time the public has been able to view the video.
A longer 6 minutes and 20 seconds video that incorporates footage from the Strickland’s body cam and two short clips from security cameras inside Oracle Arena shows the two men then being separated, before Ujiri was allowed access to the court.
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.
Up until now, the public had to rely on witness accounts of the encounter, and a shaky cell phone video taken from several feet away, which circulated on social media.
In February, Strickland filed a federal lawsuit against Ujiri, the Raptors, Maple Leaf Entertainment and the NBA alleging Ujiri shoved him so hard on the court that he suffered physical injuries to his head, jaw, chin and teeth.
Strickland also filed a workers’ compensation claim alleging Ujiri “circumvented” the security checkpoint and then tried to “storm” the court and “hit him in the face and chest with both fists.”
Strickland also claimed Ujiri had a “violent predisposition” and acted with an “evil motive amounting to malice,” according to his suit and workers’ compensation claims.
But the release of this video as well as the testimony of several witnesses actually vindicates Ujiri, the defendant’s lawyers claim in a 108-page response.
“Mr. Strickland used unnecessary and excessive force,” the counterclaim states. “There was no reason to view Mr. Ujiri as a threat to anyone and no reason for Mr. Strickland to curse at Mr. Ujiri and forcefully shove him as numerous witnesses observed.”
Strickland alleged he suffered such a “shock of injury to his nervous system” that he believes “will result in some permanent disability.”
In addition to the physical suffering, Strickland who has been revealed to have a criminal history after being arrested for insurance fraud in 1994 also said his “emotional well-being” also took a blow.
But his physical injuries are in serious question.
Ujiri’s lawyers pointed out that on the night he went to the hospital, Strickland had no visible facial swelling as he had claimed in his reports to police, and they provided a picture of him showing no bruises.
On Tuesday, the Raptors released a fresh statement, commented on the new video and reiterating their objection to the original suit.
“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,” it says.
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 events of that evening cast a pall over what should have been a night of celebration, and the year since. While Masai has the full backing of Raptors and MLSE as he fights this injustice, we are aware that not all people have similar support and resources. This is a spurious legal action that MLSE, the NBA, and especially Masai should not be facing.”