Masai Ujiri’s fight to end social and racial injustices against the Black community didn’t end when the Alameda County sheriff’s deputy who shoved the Toronto Raptors president at the 2019 NBA Finals dropped his federal suit last week. Nor did it end when he dropped his countersuit.
In a statement released Monday, Ujiri thanked those who supported him after the incident and in the year since Alan Strickland filed the federal lawsuit against him alleging assault and battery, and said he would continue to push for change.
“I am so lucky to have my beautiful, loving, supportive family. I’m grateful to the Raptors players, staff and coaches for having my back. Thank you to the NBA, MLSE and Larry Tanenbaum for your steadfast support. And I am humbled by the fans around the world. You all stood with me,” said Ujiri.
“I have decided my fight isn’t a legal one. Now, the challenge is this: What can we do to stop another man or woman from finding themselves in front of a judge or behind bars because they committed no crime other than being Black? That is the work that each one of us must commit to every day.”
The incident occurred on June 13, 2019, as the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to capture the franchise’s first title. Footage from Strickland’s body cam video shows Ujiri walking towards the court while pulling credentials from his suit pocket and Strickland subsequently shoving the Raptors president twice, telling him he had no authority to be there, before Ujiri shoved him back once.
Ujiri’s statement Monday was originally released via The Humanity Movement, which appears to be a pledge for greater empathy and equality as part of Ujiri’s youth basketball program, Giants of Africa.
The Raptors also released footage Monday of Ujiri reflecting on the incident from Aug. 16, 2020 and realizing his own privilege in being able to fight the charges.
“A moment in Oakland was taken away from me, but I’ve thought bigger than that now. I know there are people that go through worse, that have gone through worse — been killed. I think about this every day, ‘What about those people where there’s no bodycam?’ What about those people where if there’s a bodycam they never get to see it — they don’t have money for lawyers. They are accused and they are accused because they’re innocent, they’re poor, they’re Black and they don’t have anything,” said Ujiri.
“I’m lucky that I can fight and stand and show and have evidence — there are many people that don’t. We have to make it better. We have to fight and we have to stand up and we have to speak up.”
With files from The Canadian Press