Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse says a video showing an altercation between team president Masai Ujiri and a law enforcement officer at last year’s NBA Finals shows the executive received poor treatment.
The video was released with a countersuit Ujiri filed on Aug. 18 in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif. It comes in the aftermath of a lawsuit filed by Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland following the altercation after the Raptors won the NBA title last June.
“I mean, listen, to me it’s pretty self−explanatory. And disappointing,” Nurse said before the Raptors defeated the Brooklyn Nets 104−99 in Game 2 of their NBA first−round playoff series last month in Florida.
“I think it probably ruins a night of tremendous celebration for Masai with the actions of the officer. I’m sure he still felt pretty good about the win and all that stuff, but it had to dampen that. I guess it’s been a long time. It’s been over a year. So, it’s good to kind of get maybe close to some closure on that.”
The Raptors said in a statement that a video released with the countersuit proves Ujiri wasn’t the aggressor in the dispute.
“It speaks to what’s going on now,” Raptors swingman Norm Powell said after the August game. “I’m glad there was a body cam to show what actually went down. I know there were a lot of different stories going on saying Masai was the aggressor in the situation.
“I’m glad we were able to get to the real bottom line and everyone can see what really happened. It’s exactly what we’re fighting for, for justice to be served for those cops who are taking the law a little bit into their own hands unnecessarily.”
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet called the video “heavy stuff.”
“Obviously we ride with Masai, and we all have his back and we had it from Day 1, but it’s just crazy to see how things work and it’s unfortunate, I think that’s why we all are in a situation now and fighting for social justice and equality,” VanVleet said. “Because you see how quick things can get ugly just by somebody’s word or one bad cop or a bunch of bad cops.
“The system is kind of crooked, it’s not designed for us so it’s tough, it’s emotional stuff and obviously we all have his back and I hope that things get resolved and we’re able to get justice for him.”
Strickland is suing over the scuffle. Ujiri, the Raptors, Raptors owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the NBA are listed as defendants in Strickland’s lawsuit.
The countersuit gives its own description of what Ujiri’s legal team calls an 11−second encounter.
“As Mr. Ujiri attempted to enter the court, Mr. Strickland assaulted him, forcefully shoving him back once and then twice. Mr. Ujiri then shoved Mr. Strickland in the chest,” the document says.
The document adds Strickland is “perpetuating a fraud by falsely claiming he was injured,” and that Ujiri was “subjected to unprovoked and unnecessary use of force.”
“Sadly, Mr. Strickland’s dishonest account of the encounter is a narrative that has become somewhat familiar: a law enforcement officer using their position engages in unjustified violence against a peaceful individual, then lies about the encounter by characterizing the victim as the aggressor,” the document says. “To be sure the great majority of law enforcement officers do not conduct themselves in this way. Mr. Strickland, however, has chosen dishonesty over integrity.”
Nurse said it’s an unfortunate situation.
“I think that in this particular case, not just this particular case, in many instances people make accusations, assumptions, throw the guilty thing at lots of people, and I think in the world, especially of social media and all this kind of stuff, there’s a lot of just flat−out unkind behaviour towards people when they don’t really know the truth,” he said. “I find it all very disheartening and disappointing, to be honest.”
Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, said the office stands by everything it has said in regards to the investigation.
He added that the video released is “a snippet of all the video that is out there.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 19, 2020.
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