The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in California is investigating Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri following a scuffle involving a sheriff’s deputy after Thursday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.
After the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to clinch their first NBA championship, Ujiri approached the court to celebrate with players and coaches. A sheriff’s deputy stopped Ujiri, 48, and asked to see his credential before allowing him access to the court, sheriff’s department spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said in a telephone interview.
“He shoved our deputy,” Kelly said. “He dismissed him. He shoved him away.”
The deputy asked again to see Ujiri’s credential, Kelly said, when another altercation began.
“Mr. Ujiri came back a second time with a more significant push at that time,” Kelly said. “His arm came up and struck our deputy in the face. Our deputy complained of pain to his jaw. At that point, we decided to cease and desist given that there were a lot of people on the court.
“Our deputy had no idea who he was. You have to remember that during the NBA Finals, we have a lot of celebrities, VIPs and politicians show up at the game. We don’t know who is who. We’re not from Canada. We don’t follow the Raptors’ management team. There’s so many people trying to get on that court, and you’re talking about an event that has a lot of security details.”
The deputy, whom Kelly declined to name, was uninjured.
“The incident is being looked at, and we are cooperating with authorities,” the Raptors said in a statement. “We look forward to resolving the situation.”
Said NBA spokesman Mike Bass: “We are in contact with the Raptors and local authorities and in the process of gathering more information.”
Kelly said the department planned to talk to witnesses and gather video evidence and refer the matter to local prosecutors. Ujiri has not been charged.
“We’re trying to take the high road here, be classy, handle this in a way that doesn’t take away from the victory,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it would have been in anyone’s best interest for us to run out there and arrest him on the court.”
Asked if the altercation could be chalked up to a misunderstanding given the hectic circumstances of the game’s end, he said, “We’re past the misunderstanding point. There were multiple opportunities to produce the credential. Everybody in the NBA knows the credentialing process.”
Ujiri has worked in NBA front offices since 2002, working his way up the ranks from an unpaid scout to Nuggets general manager in 2010, then Raptors general manager in 2013. He helped orchestrate the trade that sent veteran guard DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for forward Kawhi Leonard, who was named the most valuable player of the Finals.
Ujiri exited Oracle Arena in good spirits, shaking hands with supporters and wearing his native Nigerian flag around his neck.