Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri told reporters Tuesday that he was “confident about who I am as a person” as law enforcement officials in California continue to investigate an altercation between Ujiri and a sheriff’s deputy after Game 6 of the NBA Finals earlier this month.
“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 at an end-of-season news conference in Toronto, his first public remarks about the incident. “I am confident about who I am as a person, my character and as a human being. For now, I just respect their process there and wait for the next steps.”
“I respect authority,” he added.
As Ujiri approached the court after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to clinch their first NBA championship, he was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy for not displaying the proper credential to access the court, according to a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. A brief shoving match ensued, during which the department says Ujiri pushed the deputy twice, one time striking him in the jaw.
The deputy’s attorney claimed last week that his client suffered a concussion, was on medical leave and was considering filing a civil suit against Ujiri. The sheriff’s office said it recommended local prosecutors bring charges against Ujiri, 48, for battery of a peace officer, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.
The Raptors and NBA have declined to offer other accounts of the events, and the league is conducting its own investigation.
The version of events presented by the sheriff’s office has evolved, though, in the almost two weeks since Toronto won its first NBA title.
Department spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly told The Washington Post on June 14 that Ujiri never produced identification when approaching the deputy, who has not been named. Video of the immediate aftermath of the incident showed Ujiri holding an NBA credential.
Kelly later told Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail that Ujiri identified himself and presented a credential, but that it was the wrong credential and it was presented in “a very threatening kind of way.” He also said video footage of Ujiri striking the deputy confirmed the department’s version of events, but he declined to provide it. The Globe and Mail published quotations from three men who said they were sitting within 10 feet of the altercation; each said they never saw Ujiri strike the officer’s face.
Kelly was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.