The Toronto Raptors won their first ever NBA title last night, largely thanks to a series of bold moves by their president, Masai Ujiri.
But that historic moment has been marred as local police allege the Raptors executive assaulted a sheriff’s deputy as he tried to make his way to the trophy presentation.
According to Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office who spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle, a deputy asked Ujiri for his credentials as the president headed towards the court to celebrate the Raptors defeat of the Golden State Warriors.
Police allege Ujiri then pushed the deputy, who pushed Ujiri back, and told him that he couldn’t make his way to the court. When Ujiri allegedly pushed again, police claim that Ujiri’s arm struck the deputy in the jaw.
While no arrests were made at the time, Ujiri was seen backing away from a scuffle in the aftermath of the alleged alternation.
The department told USA Today Friday that it intends to pursue a misdemeanor complaint against Ujiri for battery of a police officer.
Now let me preface the following by saying that we don’t know exactly what happened. I wasn’t there, and the video is inconclusive. But what we do know is we have an exec who was raised in Nigeria, and is surely the only sports executive who had to get into it with a cop in order to celebrate with his team.
You can call it whatever you want, but it’s easy to know what carding looks and feels like. Anyone of Black descent can tell you stories of how their skin colour invites speculation. In Toronto and the US, there’s thousands of Black adults and teenagers who have been stopped and questioned by police, regardless of their status.
And if a Black man decides not to cooperate, you know what happens next; they’re reduced to being the criminal they never were with an officer’s knee to their neck, a public accusation, or far worse.
I don’t know Masai Ujiri, and I don’t know if he’s personally had these same experiences that many young Black men like myself have had. But what I do know is that Ujiri is Black and male, two characteristics that, despite his brilliant moves to end the Warriors dynasty and bring an entire country a championship, mean that he’s going to be asked for his damn ID.
I don’t care what you choose to call that, but I know what it is.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Ujiri as the Raptors president and general manager. He relinquished the general manager position in 2017.