Toronto Raptors executive Masai Ujiri allegedly struck a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in the face as he tried to enter the court at Oracle Arena after his team beat the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA championship last Thursday.
That’s a claim police have advanced following an incident, for which they say they’ll pursue a charge of simple battery of an officer — a district attorney will decide whether the charge proceeds.
WATCH: June 14 — Video offers second angle of aftermath of alleged confrontation between Masai Ujiri, police
But that claim has come under increasing scrutiny in the days following the Game 6 championship. Greg Wiener, a Warriors season-ticket holder, said he witnessed Ujiri’s encounter with the officer and did not see the executive strike him in the face.
And when Global News Podcast Wait, There’s More spoke with police, they said certain details happened “potentially.” And they said they were unable to release video that supports their account.
June 13: the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to capture the league title in Game 6 of the NBA championship.
Ujiri was on his way to the court to celebrate with the team when an unidentified deputy stopped him because he didn’t have proper credentials, police said last week.
The sheriff’s office has alleged that Ujiri tried to push his way through before the deputy pushed back.
The encounter then escalated as Ujiri allegedly hit the policeman in the face as he shoved him, said police.
He later went on to the court to celebrate.
Police said the deputy sustained a concussion and “minor brain swell” from the incident.
The encounter has drawn allegations of racial profiling — something the police deny emphatically.
“This is an issue of security, this is an issue of credentials versus no credentials,” Alameda County Sgt. Ray Kelly told Wait, There’s More.
“The charge that’s being stated that we were racially profiling Masai Ujiri is inaccurate, and it’s upsetting, and it’s not right, because we don’t do that.”
Presented with Wiener’s account — that Ujiri did not strike the deputy in the face — Kelly said, “OK, he did, he did.”
“We have body camera video, surveillance video that’s very descriptive, and I can adamantly tell you that Mr. Ujiri did strike the deputy sheriff,” Kelly said.
Ujiri did this “with both arms extended and in a forceful manner,” he added.
Kelly had the following exchange with Wait, There’s More when it came to clarifying the physical contact:
WTM: “One thing Mr. Wiener has told us that differs from what you’ve said is that Masai Ujiri did not strike the officer in the face, but his arm did not…
Kelly: “OK, he did, he did. We have body camera video, surveillance video from the arena that’s very descriptive, and I can adamantly tell you that Mr. Ujiri did strike the deputy sheriff.”
WTM: “With his arm, is that correct?”
Kelly: “With both his arms extended and in a forceful manner. I’m trying, you know, like how you would push somebody with all your might.”
WTM: “He shoved him.”
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WTM: “Right, so that’s what Mr. Wiener said…”
Kelly: “There’s shoving, like, move out of my way shoving, and then there’s shoving in an aggressive, assaultive way. There’s different types of pushing and shoving, would you agree with that?”
WTM: “Yeah, so, I’m just trying to just basically figure out the difference between what you and Mr. Wiener are saying. Mr. Wiener also said he used both his hands to shove him forcefully, and I’m just, the difference between what you and him are saying basically is that, in the course of that, he was struck in the face, but he was not struck in the face like…
Kelly: “Mr. Ujiri, during his shove, his shove, which initially appears to be a close-fisted shove… (pauses for five seconds) Potentially.”
WATCH: June 14 — Alameda Sheriff’s Office outlines complaint against Raptors’ Masai Ujiri
Asked whether police will release video of the incident, Kelly said, “that’s something that we’re discussing.”
“As of right now, the video is evidence and we do not release evidence until we’ve brought the case to a district attorney because there’s still witnesses out there and people that need to be talked to, so we don’t want to taint witness testimony,” Kelly said.
Wiener, a 61-year-old spectator, again offered an account at odds with what police are saying, in an interview with Wait, There’s More.
Wiener was at the game with his son and said he stood “literally only a few inches away” from the deputy in the incident.
Ujiri, he said, entered from the right and try to go on to the court.
WATCH: June 10 — How Masai Ujiri got the Raptors to the NBA Finals
He said the deputy then walked up to the executive and prevented him from entering the court, then physically restrained him.
Ujiri, however, “kind of blew off his stop sign and attempted again,” he said.
That’s when he said the deputy gave Ujiri a shove back, and that the Raptors executive “gave the deputy a very hard return shove.”
“I think the first time was more like a hand in the chest, preventing someone from walking forward,” Wiener said.
Ujiri, he said, didn’t show his credentials at any point, though they were cupped in his hand by his side, “palmed so you couldn’t really see them.”
As for the allegation that the executive hit the officer in the face, “I’ve reported numerous times that I did not see the officer being struck in the face, jaw or anything like that,” Wiener said.
“It was a hard, two-handed shove to the chest.”
Wiener went on to say that the officer was “clearly aggressive but I don’t know if that’s wrong in this scenario.”
“He was aggressive when I had walked up and I wasn’t even trying to get by him and he got aggressive with me.”
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He added, however, that he didn’t think there was a racial element to the exchange.
“If I thought it was the opposite, I’d say so,” Wiener said.
— With files from Tamara Khandaker, Sadiya Ansari and Josh Elliott