Masai Ujiri, president of basketball operations and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, may be charged with assault after an altercation with a California sheriff’s deputy late Thursday, shortly after his team won Game 6 of the NBA Finals, authorities said Friday.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said it would pursue misdemeanour assault charges against Ujiri, one of the NBA’s most celebrated front-office executives.
The incident is said to have occurred at Oracle Arena in Oakland moments after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to give Canada its first NBA championship.
Ujiri made his way to the court to join the celebrating team, but an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy stopped him because he did not have the proper credentials, said Sergeant Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
The deputy was not aware that Ujiri was a high-ranking team executive until after the altercation, Kelly said.
The sheriff’s office said Ujiri tried to push the deputy out of the way. After several shoves back and forth, Ujiri struck the deputy’s face, according to Kelly.
At that point, several others pulled Ujiri away from the deputy and onto the court.
Journalists posted videos that caught the end of the incident, showing a man pleading with deputies to allow Ujiri to pass.
Ujiri was not arrested at the arena. “Instead of creating a more significant incident at this international postgame event, we decided to take the high road and cease and desist,” Kelly said.
“What we’re now doing is compiling witness statements and video body-cam evidence to submit to the DA [district attorney] next week for review,” he added. “It’s up to the DA to file charges for misdemeanour assault on a police officer.”
The Raptors said in a statement that the team was co-operating with authorities and also looking into the matter, The Associated Press reported. The Oakland Police Department said it was also investigating the matter.