Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has responded to a recently released video of an altercation between him and a California police officer moments after last year’s NBA Finals, calling the video a stark reminder of the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a powerful statement shared by his legal team and the Raptors social media accounts, Ujiri said the video is a reminder of the importance of fighting for justice.
He highlighted the fact that while he was only targeted because of his skin colour, he also only received justice because of his relatively powerful position as the president of an NBA team.
Ujiri ended by calling for people to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and “far too many Black lives that mattered.”
“And justice for Black people around the world, who need our voice and our compassion to save their lives,” he wrote. “Those are the ties that bind us.”
The new body camera footage clearly shows Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland shoving Ujiri following the team’s NBA Finals victory over the Golden State Warriors last year.
WATCH: Body-cam footage shows cop shoving Toronto Raptors president. Story continues below.
Strickland is currently suing Ujiri over the altercation, claiming medical expenses and “emotional and psychological pan and suffering”. The officer claims in a federal lawsuit filed in February that he stopped Ujiri from going onto the court to celebrate with his team because he didn’t provide the proper credentials. Strickland alleged Ujiri hit him “in the face and chest with both fists,” tried to go around the deputy and repeatedly ignored orders to stop.
However, the video released this week appears to show Strickland using his arm to stop Ujiri from getting to the court, and then shoving him before the two appear to exchange words. Strickland then shoves Ujiri again as he says “I’m president of the Raptors.” This leads to Ujiri pushing Strickland back, it shows.
In a statement Tuesday, the team said the video clearly shows that Ujiri “was not an aggressor, but instead was the recipient of two very violent, unwarranted actions.” Ujiri filed a countersuit this week.
Players show their support
Earlier Thursday, Raptors star Kyle Lowry expressed his support for Ujiri.
″[The video] shows why we’re supportive of the social injustices that are going on right now,” Lowry told reporters during a video conference.
“It shows why we need to get out there and vote. It shows why we need to get those guys to arrest the murderers of Breonna Taylor because there’s police officers like that officer out there who are scumbags, basically.”
Raptors centre Serge Ibaka said the video is proof “the fight is far from over.”
“It’s kind of sad because honestly, I don’t think anybody believed in Masai when he said he was innocent,” Ibaka said. “Things should never be like this ... no matter where you come from, no matter your colour, things should never be like that.”
TSN analyst Leo Rautins noted that he wasn’t stopped from going onto the court that night, and that what happened to Ujiri highlights why the league needs to take the Black Lives Matter movement seriously.
“I walked on the court without anybody asking me for my credentials. What’s the difference between me and Masai? I’m white, he’s Black,” Rautins said.
“This is why we kneel. That’s why that phrase and that statement is so important.”
With files from The Canadian Press.