UPDATED: 3:31 p.m. EDT — A compelling narrative has emerged on social media that points to police lying about an alleged scuffle an officer had with the president of the Toronto Raptors in the moments after the team won the NBA title Thursday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Associated Press’ bureau chief in Canada reported that an eyewitness told him Masai Ujiri never assaulted the officer, contradicting claims from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
Police originally said Ujiri refused to show his credential when asked before he pushed the officer out of the way, which led to a scuffle. However, a video showing Ujiri watching the end of the game in the arena’s tunnel shows him clearly clutching those credentials in his hand while celebrating the franchise’s first NBA championship.
It was presumably in the moments after that video was recorded that Ujiri had his encounter with the officer.
UPDATED: 12:50 p.m. EDT — The irony of police in California looking to criminally charge a Black NBA executive with misdemeanor assault after a game while at the same time ignoring the same apparent offense from a white NBA executive against a player during a game was not lost on social media users.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said on Friday that it was “pursuing a misdemeanor complaint against Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri for battery of a police officer” for an encounter after the decisive Game 6 win against the Golden State Warriors in Oracle Arena in Oakland Thursday night.
But nine days earlier, a co-owner of the Warriors violently shoved a Raptors player in the middle of a game in the same arena. Police never issued a comment, let alone indicated it would pursue a misdemeanor complaint for battery against Mark Stevens, who is white.
When Stevens shoved Lowry on June 5, social media erupted with users posting about how the player would have been arrested had the roles been reversed.
The apparent double standard more than a week later was not ignored by people on Twitter.
Instead of facing the threat of arrest, Stevens was slapped on the wrist with a ban from attending any more games this season, which, of course, just ended Thursday night.
UPDATED: 12:16 p.m. EDT — Police were looking to press charges against a top NBA executive for an alleged assault after the decisive Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Oakland on Thursday night. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office was “pursuing a misdemeanor complaint against Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri for battery of a police officer,” USA Today reported Friday afternoon.
The Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to win the 2018-19 NBA title, after which Ujiri was apparently prevented from celebrating by a police officer in Oracle Arena who was demanding he show his credentials. We know that much. But one reporter who recorded the encounter said Ujiri was “punched and pushed” by a police officer.
Police rebuffed that narrative despite video evidence that appeared to be to the contrary, according to a statement from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
“We were told to strictly enforce the credentialing policy and not allow anyone onto the court without a credential, so our deputies were doing that,” Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said. “Our deputy contacted Mr. Masai Ujiri as he attempted to walk onto the court. He had no credential displayed, and our deputy asked for his credential.
“Mr. Ujiri didn’t produce them and pushed our deputy out of the way to gain access to the court. At that point our deputy tried to stop him and pushed him backward and then Mr. Ujiri came back with a second shove, a more significant push that, with his forward momentum, his arm struck our deputy in the face.
“At that point our deputy pushed Mr. Ujiri away again and some NBA security people and others intervened and he ended up walking onto the court.”
The latest development set up a possible scenario of Ujiri having to experience a personal low of being arrested, having his mugshot taken and being trotted out in a perp walk after having experienced the professional high of winning a professional league championship.
While nothing was getting in the way of Toronto Raptors fans celebrating the team’s historic NBA title Thursday night, the subsequent celebration was briefly marred by an apparent scuffle between police at the game and the winning team’s president.
Video has emerged on social media showing Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who is Black, being “punched and pushed” by a white police officer at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. But while the account that tweeted the video claimed the officer was the aggressor, in what bore all the hallmarks of a classic case of racial profiling, police, in turn, have accused Ujiri of assaulting the cop.
“(The deputy) did not know who the man was and asked for the credential, and that’s when he tried to push past our deputy, and our deputy pushed him back, and there was another push that kind of moved up and struck our deputy in the face,” an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle. “At that point, several bystanders intervened and the executive did ultimately get back onto the court without displaying credentials.”
Criminalizing a Black man seems to be Police 101, and cops seemed to follow the script to a tee following the report that Ujiri was the victim.
It’s fair to ask whether the same heightened levels of scrutiny were applied to the throngs of white people who appeared to be doing the same thing as Ujiri, a man who is practically a legend on the NBA executive level after he accomplished the improbable by trading away the Raptors’ best and fans’ favorite player last year in an unpopular move at the time that ultimately paid off for the team with its first NBA championship.
It was also noteworthy that this type of situation has apparently never been reported in all the years of NBA teams winning the Finals. Team owners and execs always, without fail, rush the court after winning the title. Why was this time different?
Ujiri was not arrested and there were no immediate charges, but it was tough to ignore the implicitly biased elephant in the room. Considering what the country has seen from police encounters with people of color, it’s doubtful that the fact that Ujiri is a Black man was not taken into consideration before the officer decided to request his credentials.
The Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and were led by Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who Ujiri boldly traded for last summer.