For Toronto Raptors President of Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri winning an NBA Championship should be a moment of celebration for the basketball executive. Instead, it started with an encounter with a sheriff deputy whose power may have gone to his head, particularly when dealing with a Black man.
At the closing moments of Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Ujiri attempted to join the championship team he built but was stopped on the court after he was asked to display the proper credentials. Ujiri provided identification, but not credentials.
According to The Globe and Mail, Ujiri explained to the deputy who he was and that’s why he didn’t need additional identification. Moments later, the two engaged in a confrontation that led to a shoving match and questions of racial profiling. After all, the NBA players are mostly Black, not necessarily high-level execs like Ujiri.
Initially, reports from the police indicated that Ujiri slapped the officer and that they had video footage to prove it, but it has not been released. The Globe and Mail has now received confirmation from the Oakland Police that the officer, whose body cam was conveniently turned off, pushed the Raptors president first.
The Nation received a statement from Ujuri, that acknowledges the incident and confirming the belief in his own character.
“I am confident about who I am as a person, my character and as a human being,” Ujiri said. “I honestly am going to leave all my comments until the whole investigation is done. I think that’s the fair way and the right way to operate when things like this do happen. I respect authority and I’ll wait until that happens.”
Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office stated while Ujuri did present his credentials, it was in a “very threatening way,” which led to the shove as a result of violating personal space. However, the original details were said that Ujiri failed to present them at all.
The deputy is citing to have suffered a concussion and a jaw injury. He is also considering suing Ujiri following the incident. Ujiri is also possibly facing a criminal investigation.
“My lawyers are updating me. Honestly, with that incident, I’m just going to respect what the process is there and the investigation,” Ujiri said, via Jacob Bogage of the Denver Post.
Witnesses contradicted the deputy’s statement saying the two men shoved each other but no fists were involved. One of the witnesses spoken to by The Globe is famed jewelry entrepreneur Ben Baller who states he saw pushes strong enough to make both men stumble.
“If he didn’t do anything wrong, obviously, you’d hope that it was handled in a better fashion,” Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry said. “Especially for a guy that was going out and trying to celebrate with his team that had done something historical. So I don’t know if that was a white G.M. or whatever, if that’s handled differently. You can always play the what-if game.”