Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Raptors’ Masai Ujiri says he will ‘fight’ for wrongly accused after encounter with lying police officer

Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is a big man.
Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is a big man.
Image: Getty Images

It takes a selfless person to turn their trauma into a blessing for others.

That’s what Raptors President Masai Ujiri is looking to do after law enforcement robbed him of his championship moment following the 2019 NBA Finals.

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The championship executive is now looking to fight for the wrongly accused who have been made victims by authorities.

“I say it as humbly as I can: the privilege of the job I have is to fight for this,” Ujiri said on Wednesday in an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. “They are wrongly accused, there’s no body cams, nobody sees what happens, and they are incarcerated or they are accused or they are charged. We have to fight for them.”

Ujiri, a Black man, was sued after an interaction with Alameda County Sheriff deputy Alan Strickland turned physical when the officer refused to let Ujiri join his squad moments after it beat the Golden State Warriors in California to end the series.

Video evidence from Strickland’s body cam later showed that the officer shoved Ujiri twice as he was trying to step onto the court, before Raptors guard Kyle Lowry pulled him onto the court to celebrate. The Raptors executive said that at one point he couldn’t sleep for three days thinking about the situation. Ujiri later issued a countersuit against Strickland claiming that he lied.

Strickland and Ujiri both dropped their lawsuits against each other earlier this month.

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“As much as we say, ‘Yeah, this happened to me,’ there’s worse that’s happened to other people, right?” Ujiri said. “I lost a moment. People have lost their lives.”

Ujiri has a firm understanding of what it means to be a Black man with privilege in this country. He knows that if he wasn’t one of the best front-office executives in the entire NBA he likely would have never been able to prove that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

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There have been many instances in this country where police officers will fabricate stories to clear themselves of their shady behavior. And oftentimes they get away with it, especially if it involves a Black man or person of color.

Ujiri has the resources to help minorities fight against crooked officers who wrongly accuse them of crimes. His commitment to help others who have been in his situation is not only commendable, it’s heroic.

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These matters are not only about right and wrong, they are a matter of life and death. This is a problem Black people have been dealing with for decades. Last year, the country got an in-depth look into what could happen when you don’t hold officers accountable for their actions. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are only the tip of the Iceberg.

Ujiri had his life changed forever due to this encounter with Strickland nearly two years ago, and if he hadn’t had the resources to fight it, who knows where he’d be today. Now, he’s taking the responsibility on himself to make sure that people less fortunate aren’t having to suffer due to the actions of corrupt law enforcement.