California police officer suing Masai Ujiri in wake of championship altercation

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri is being sued by the California police officer he scuffled with in the moments after his team won the NBA championship last June.

Deputy alleges he's suffered 'severe emotional and physical distress' since clash last June

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn't face criminal charges in connection with an altercation that followed his team's championship win at Oracle Arena in Oakland last June. However, the police officer involved in the clash has now filed a civil lawsuit. (Albert Leung/CBC)

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri is being sued by the California police officer he scuffled with in the moments after his team won the NBA championship last June.

The clash between Ujiri and the officer happened moments after the final buzzer as Ujiri rushed to the court to celebrate with his team. Authorities say Ujiri tried to walk past the officer, but the officer stopped him because he didn't see Ujiri's on-court credentials, which led to the confrontation. 

Video of the incident doesn't capture the entire sequence of events, but following a lengthy investigation the Alameda County District Attorney's Office decided last October not to file any criminal charges against Ujiri. 

That hasn't stopped Alan Strickland, the deputy involved in the confrontation, from filing a lawsuit.

Strickland alleges in his lawsuit that Ujiri hit him in the face and chest with both fists. 

Strickland also says in the lawsuit, filed last week in California, that he was physically injured and has since suffered "severe emotional and physical distress" as a result of what happened. In the days following the game, a lawyer representing Strickland said Strickland suffered a concussion and jaw injury that forced him to take medical leave.

Strickland is also suing the Raptors organization, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) and the NBA, arguing that "they knew, or should have known" that Ujiri "had a violent predisposition and propensity for physical violence." 

The lawsuit doesn't say how much Strickland is suing for, but notes it's more than $75,000 US. Strickland is also seeking punitive damages and money to cover medical expenses and lost earnings.

Strickland's wife, Kelly Strickland, is also listed as a plaintiff in the case.

MLSE 'disappointed but not at all surprised'

Jennifer Quinn, a spokesperson for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said in an email on Monday that the lawsuit is disappointing.

"We are disappointed but not at all surprised Mr. Strickland has elected to take this path. His claims are baseless and entirely without merit. They should and will be viewed appropriately for what they are." Quinn said.

"The Toronto Raptors and Masai have jointly retained very able counsel who will be handling this matter on our behalf and consequently, we do not intend to make any further statement about it."

Ujiri expressed relief after he was cleared of criminal wrongdoing last fall. "While these past months have been difficult waiting for a determination on this matter, I understand the nature of the process and am appreciative of the efforts of all involved," Ujiri said at the time.

"I am happy that this is now behind me and I look forward to the task of bringing another championship to the city of Toronto."

In recent days, Ujiri has been travelling in Africa alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

On the court, the Raptors are trying to extend a franchise-record 14-game win streak in Toronto on Monday night when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.


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