A California law enforcement officer and Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri dropped lawsuits stemming from an incident following the Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship-clinching victory over the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif.

Shortly after the Raptors won their first title on June 13, 2019, Ujiri attempted to join the team on the Oracle Arena court and Alan Strickland, an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy, stopped him, saying he had not shown his credential. Video showed the two shoving one another and Strickland accused Ujiri of hitting him “in the face and chest with both fists” while ignoring orders to stop trying to get to the floor.

Strickland’s lawsuit sought $75,000 in damages for “physical, mental, emotional, and economic injuries” from the incident, lost wages and earning capacity and past and future medical care and expenses. His wife was named as a plaintiff. Strickland’s attorneys had not responded to requests for comment from the Associated Press, which first reported that the lawsuit had been dropped.

Attorneys for Ujiri filed a countersuit in August 2020, alleging that video showed Strickland to have been “undeniably the initial aggressor.” In a statement released at that time by the Raptors, Ujiri claimed the officer’s actions were racially motivated. That lawsuit, too, was dropped according to the AP.

“What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success,” Ujiri said at the time his countersuit was filed. “Because I’m the president of an NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice.

“So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter.”

Video from the June 13, 2019 NBA championship game in Oakland, Calif., shows a dustup between Toronto Raptors president Masai Uriji and a sheriff's deputy. (The Washington Post)

Body-cam video accompanying the 108-page counterclaim, filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland, showed Strickland grabbing Ujiri by the jacket and shoving him, telling him to “back the f--- up” as Ujiri attempted to pull his credential from his jacket to show Strickland.

“Why did you push me?” Ujiri asks in the 6-minute 20-second video that includes edited clips. “I’m the president of the Raptors.” The two appear to exchange words and Ujiri shows his credential again. Strickland shoves him a second time, and Ujiri shoves back. The two were separated, and Ujiri eventually joined the team and did a TV interview.

In a counterclaim filed last September, Strickland contended that Ujiri struck him in the face, causing the injury for which he and his wife filed the claim against Ujiri; the Raptors and their parent company, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment; and the NBA.

“Due to Mr. Ujiri’s evasive behavior and his refusal to stop and present his credentials, Mr. Strickland had no alternative but to physically stop Mr. Ujiri,” the filing said. “Mr. Strickland pushed Mr. Ujiri backward with an openhanded push using both hands to Mr. Ujiri’s chest. Mr. Ujiri once again ignored Mr. Strickland’s commands to return and present credentials and again tried to circumvent Mr. Strickland by walking past him. Once again, Mr. Strickland had no alternative but to physically stop Mr. Ujiri. Mr. Strickland pushed Mr. Ujiri backward with an openhanded push using both hands to Mr. Ujiri’s chest.”

With both lawsuits dropped, the Raptors’ parent company, MLSE, said it was “pleased the legal process has come to an end — and especially pleased that the claims made against Masai and MLSE were dismissed entirely, free of any financial settlement.” In the statement to the AP, it added: “We continue to be deeply troubled by the fact that Masai was put in this position in the first place, and believe he should never have had to defend himself. Masai is taking some time to process the ordeal, and intends to address it publicly at a later date.”

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