The president of the Toronto Raptors basketball team, Masai Ujiri, says an incident with a law enforcement officer moments before his team lifted their first NBA title last year happened because ‘I am black’.
The 50-year-old is a former player and was born in the UK to a Nigerian father and a Kenyan mother, lived in Nigeria before moving to north America.
Footage of altercation involving Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri
His comments follow newly-released body cam footage from US Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Strickland, who had previously claimed that Ujiri was the aggressor.
In a statement released by the Raptors, Ujiri says, “The video sadly demonstrates how horribly I was treated by a law enforcement officer last year in the midst of my team, the Toronto Raptors, winning its first world championship.
“Yet unfortunately, I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement.
‘What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success.
“Because I’m the President of a 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.”
The BBC is still waiting for an official response to Ujiri’s statment but previously it had been reported that Strickland’s lawyer had discounted any racial element because his client’s family is black.
The incident happened in the dying moments of the last game of the 2019 NBA Finals, that was played at the Warriors’ home stadium in Oakland California, just as Ujiri’s side were about to celebrate their win over the Golden State Warriors.
In the footage Ujiri can be seen attempting to access the court to celebrate with his players but is stopped by Strickland, who appears to push him and a voice is heard telling Ujiri to ‘back the up’.
Ujiri attempts to retrieve his All-Access NBA pass to show the officer but is pushed again.
In February, Strickland filed a lawsuit against Ujiri saying the Raptors president had hit him in his face and chest with both fists.
The lawsuit alleges that Ujiri had a “violent predisposition” and claims that Strickland ‘suffered, and will continue to suffer, physical, mental, emotional, and economic injuries.’
However, Ujiri has countersued, alleging that the officer is perpetrating fraud and that he believes the body cam footage shows that Strickland used excessive force.
The incident comes as the issue of social justice for black people around the world is in sharp focus following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police.
After managing to get on the court following his altercation with Strickland, the first player Ujiri embraced was Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.
“The video shows why we’re supporting the Black Lives Matter (movement). It shows why we need to get out there and vote.”