Toronto Raptors President Faces Criminal Charges After Encounter With Sheriff’s Deputy

Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri may face criminal charges and a lawsuit after being accused of shoving and hitting a sheriff’s deputy. Ujiri allegedly assaulted the deputy as he was attempting to join his team on the court when they won the NBA championship for the first time on June 13.The incident occurred when the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, and Ujiri tried to walk past the deputy, who was checking court-access credentials, Sergeant Ray Kelly told the Associated Press (AP). The deputy stopped Ujiri, allegedly prompting him to shove the deputy and curse.

“That’s when our deputy goes hands-on and moves Mr. Ujiri back from the court. Mr. Ujiri made a second, more significant shove and during that shove his arm struck our deputy in the side of the head,” Kelly said.Kelly told CBC that Ujiri did not have his credentials at the time of the encounter. NBC security eventually intervened and Ujiri was able to go to the court to celebrate with his team. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry led Ujiri to the court, Sports Center reported.

“There is a credential policy that the NBA has in place,” Kelly said. “Everybody from the top executives all the way down…know that you must wear credentials to get on the court. We would expect more from a team president.”The authorities’ account of the events was disputed by 61-year-old Warriors’ season ticket holder Greg Wiener. He told the AP that he did not see Ujiri strike the deputy in the face. Wiener claimed the incident began after the deputy put his hand on Ujiri’s chest and shoved him. Ujiri then pushed back.

“The thing about the cops saying the policeman asked for his credentials, that didn’t happen,” Wiener said. “There was no conversation at all. This part about striking him in the face--yeah, that didn’t happen.” Wiener said that the account appears to be “somebody trying to embellish what happened to protect what they did.”

The deputy later claimed he was experiencing pain in his jaw and was taken to a hospital to be evaluated. He was later released.

Kelly told the AP that the sheriff’s office spoke to witnesses and were reviewing footage from body cameras, arena surveillance, and cellphones. A report will then be sent to prosecutors. On June 18, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern said he supports the deputy and is recommending misdemeanor battery charges against Ujiri. The deputy, who has not been identified, is reportedly considering a lawsuit against Ujiri, the Raptors organization, and the NBA. Civil rights attorney David Mastagni, who is representing the deputy, told KPIX that, “All options are on the table. No options are off the table.”

“It’s an unprovoked significant hit to the jaw of the law enforcement officer,” Mastagni said. He claimed his client has not been able to return to work due to injuries he sustained. The attorney said the 20-year veteran deputy suffered a serious concussion and a templar mandibular joint injury.The Raptors said they are also looking into the incident. “The incident is being looked at, and we are cooperating with authorities. We look forward to resolving the situation,” a spokesperson said.On June 14, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the basketball association is communicating with the Raptors and local law enforcement “and in the process of gathering more information,” NBC Bay Area reported.

During Game 3 of the NBA finals, Warriors minority owner Mark Stevens was caught shoving and swearing at the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry after the point guard dove into courtside seats to save a loose ball. Stevens was later banned from attending any team activities until the end of next season’s playoffs and was fined $500,000, CNN reported. “Mr. Stevens’ behavior last night did not reflect the high standards that we hope to exemplify as an organization,” the Warriors said in a statement. “We’re extremely disappointed in his actions and, along with Mr. Stevens, offer our sincere apology to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors organization for this unfortunate misconduct. There is no place for such interaction between fans — or anyone — and players at an NBA game.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.