NBA

U.S. authorities push ahead with battery charge on Raptors president Masai Ujiri following Game 6

U.S. authorities will push for a battery charge against Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri after the executive was accused of pushing and hitting a sheriff's deputy in the face as he tried to get onto the court when his team won the NBA title in Oakland, Calif., a police spokesman said Friday.

Alleged assault on sheriff’s deputy said to have happened at Oracle Arena shortly after team won NBA title

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri celebrates his team's first NBA title after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 Thursday night in Oakland, Calif. Moments after the Raptors won, Ujiri allegedly assaulted a local police officer while trying to make his way onto the court. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

U.S. authorities will push for a battery charge against Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri after the executive was accused of pushing and hitting a sheriff's deputy in the face as he tried to get onto the court when his team won the NBA title in Oakland, Calif., a police spokesman said Friday.

Moments after the Raptors won their first NBA championship Thursday night, Ujiri allegedly assaulted a local police officer at Oracle Arena, the sheriff's office said.

A spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office said Ujiri was making his way to the court when he was stopped by a sheriff's deputy and asked for his credentials.

"This deputy had no idea who [Ujiri] was," Sgt. Ray Kelly said in a phone interview.

Ujiri didn't have the credentials on him, Kelly said, adding that the former NBA executive of the year then allegedly pushed the deputy out of the way in an effort to get on the court.

"Our deputy pushed the man back and told him he couldn't go onto the court," Kelly alleged. "At that point, the gentleman pushed our deputy again, and during that push his arm struck our deputy in the jaw."

He said at that point NBA security intervened and Ujiri was able to get onto the court. A local television station, NBC Bay Area, shared video from the immediate aftermath of the alleged incident that appears to show another man separating the deputy from Ujiri, who is then led onto the court by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.

Kelly said that rather than arrest Ujiri on international television, the department decided to take the "high road" and file a misdemeanour complaint to local prosecutors. He said the officer was not seriously injured in the alleged incident, but did complain of pain in his jaw.

"We'll be submitting a report to the Alameda County district attorney for complaint of battery on an officer," he said.

Asked about the appearance of a well-known executive being held back from celebrating a historic win with the team he built, Kelly said optics were of no concern.

"There is a credentialling policy that the NBA has in place. Everybody from the top executives all the way down ... know that you must wear credentials to get on the court," he said. "We would expect more from a team president."

Kelly told CBC News they get a "tremendous amount" of celebrities and VIPs who go to Warriors games and it would "almost impossible" to know every team executive.

A spokesperson for the Raptors said: "The incident is being looked at, and we are co-operating with authorities. We look forward to resolving the situation."

Warriors' fan refutes police account of incident

A Warriors fan says he did not see Ujiri strike the deputy in the face.

Greg Wiener, a 61-year-old season ticket holder, said he was standing next to the officer when the encounter occurred.

Wiener said the deputy didn't ask for any credentials before putting his hand on Ujiri's chest and pushing him. Wiener said Ujiri shoved him back before bystanders intervened.

Wiener says he was not interviewed by authorities.

Kelly said deputies took witness statements and were reviewing footage from body cameras worn by the deputy along with footage from the arena surveillance system and cellphones.

"We had the opportunity to make an arrest and we chose not to," Kelly said. "We decided it would be in everyone's best interest to slow things down and do an investigation."

The Raptors said the team is also looking into the altercation and cooperating with authorities.

"We look forward to resolving the situation," the team said.

Credential policy strictly enforced

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league also was cooperating with authorities.

"We are in contact with the Raptors and local authorities and in the process of gathering more information," Bass said.

ESPN reported that Ujiri had watched the end of the game on television with other team officials outside the Raptors' locker room. He then went down a tunnel to join the on-court celebration.

Kelly said deputies had instructions to strictly enforce the NBA's credential policy.

He said his office will recommend a charge of misdemeanor battery against an officer even though he understood that Ujiri had a tremendous amount of emotion while trying to meet his team on the court.

The results of the investigation likely will be forwarded next week to the Alameda County district attorney's office. A spokeswoman for the agency didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

"It will be up to the DA to file charges," Kelly said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory came to Ujiri's defence.

"Anybody who knows anything about him would say that some notion that he would be shoving people around in Oakland or elsewhere in the world is not credible," Tory said.

With files from The Associated Press

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