2019 NBA Playoffs
Calif. authorities seek battery charge against Masai Ujiri
Olga R. Rodriguez and Rob Gillies | The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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, an official said Friday.
After the game Thursday against the Golden State Warriors, Ujiri was denied access to the court by the deputy because he didn’t have a proper credential, Alameda County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“That’s when he tried to push past our deputy, and our deputy pushed him back, and there was another push that kind of moved up and struck our deputy in the face,” Kelly said, who later added the deputy involved complained of pain in his jaw and was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
Several bystanders intervened and Ujiri got onto the court without displaying any credentials, Kelly said.
Deputies later took witness statements and obtained video of the incident, he said.
“We’ll be submitting a report to the Alameda County district attorney for complaint of battery on an officer,” he said.
Warriors fan Greg Wiener said he was standing next to the deputy when the encounter occurred and did not see Ujiri strike him in the face.
“The thing about the cops saying the policeman asked for his credentials, that didn’t happen. There was no conversation at all,” Wiener said.
“This part about striking him in the face, yeah that didn’t happen,” he added.
Wiener said the encounter began when the deputy put his hand on Ujiri’s chest and pushed him. Ujiri shoved him back before bystanders intervened, Wiener said, adding that he has not been interviewed by authorities.
“This looks like somebody trying to embellish what happened to protect what they did, what the policeman did,” he said.
A video of the altercation obtained by NBC Bay Area shows Ujiri and a deputy being held back courtside by several bystanders. It doesn’t show a scuffle.
The video appeared to show Ujiri holding some type of credential in his right hand while standing by the court.
The Raptors said in a statement to The Associated Press that the team is also looking into the altercation.
“The incident is being looked at, and we are cooperating with authorities,” the team said. “We look forward to resolving the situation.”
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, ESPN reported.
The NBA requires extra credentials to gain access to the floor when the series is clinched, including a gold armband.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league was cooperating with authorities.
“We are in contact with the Raptors and local authorities and in the process of gathering more information,” Bass said.
Kelly, the sheriff’s spokesman, did not immediately return a phone message seeking further comment from the AP.
Last week, the NBA banned Golden State Warriors investor Mark Stevens from games for a year and fined him $500,000 after he was seen on camera apparently shoving Toronto star Kyle Lowry during Game 3 of the playoffs.
Lowry had dived into a row of courtside seats in an effort to save a loose ball. Stevens, wearing an NBA-issued credential, was seated about two spots away from where Lowry landed and shoved Lowry in the upper body.
Lowry said Stevens repeated a vulgar phrase to him about four times during the brief incident.
The Warriors said later in a statement that the team and Stevens “offer our sincere apology to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors organization for this unfortunate misconduct.”