The sheriff’s deputy involved in an on-court confrontation with Toronto Raptors’ team president Masai Ujiri is mulling a lawsuit against the NBA executive, his attorney said.
“No decision has been made but all options are on the table,” Sacramento attorney David Mastagni said Tuesday of a possible lawsuit against Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ president of basketball operations, stemming from the incident in the celebratory moments following the Raptors’ NBA title-clinching win last week over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Mastagni said the Alameda County deputy sustained a concussion in the incident and is disabled and off work, describing the injury as a “temporal mandibular joint injury.” The hinge-like joints connect the jawbone to the skull.
“This was an unprovoked, significant injury to the jaw,” Mastagni said.
Tempers flared courtside after Ujiri reportedly shoved the Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy when the deputy stopped Ujiri and told him to provide a credential before walking onto the court. The deputy pushed Ujiri back and repeated his request before receiving what a sheriff’s spokesman said was a second “significant” shove from the Toronto executive that struck the deputy’s jaw.
Sgt. Ray Kelly, the Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesman, said the department was following security protocols that prohibited anyone without credentials from entering the court. Ujiri reportedly refused to show his credential, then pushed the deputy away, Kelly said last week.
Kelly cited the heavy security at the arena for Game 6: “There’s a strictly enforced policy that no one is allowed on the court without the credentials to do so,” Kelly said.
Video from NBC Bay Area showed security stepping in front of Ujiri and restraining a deputy at the end of the incident before Raptors guard Kyle Lowry pulled the team president onto the court.
A Warriors season-ticket holder who said he witnessed the incident told The Associated Press the exchange began when the deputy pushed Ujiri.
“The thing about the cops saying the policeman asked for his credentials, that didn’t happen. There was no conversation at all,” Greg Wiener, 61, told the AP last week. “This part about (Ujiri) striking him in the face, yeah, that didn’t happen.”
Wiener on Monday revised his account of the events, in a Tweet: “After a weekend to recollect the events I witnessed, I realized that the Deputy involved did yell at Ujiri, ‘No one on the court without credentials.’ Previously I stated nothing was said.”
In a Monday San Jose Mercury News report, Wiener said the deputy was standing to his left facing the court and Ujiri came into Wiener’s view from the right, but did not describe the confrontation in detail.
Commentators in Canada and in the United States have weighed in, raising questions of racial profiling in the incident.
“What should have been the proudest moment of Ujiri’s life, and should have been a moment of unadulterated joy for Raptors fans, became yet another footnote in the body of evidence on racial profiling,” Toronto-based writer Andray Dumise penned this week in an opinion piece for the Canadian news magazine Maclean’s.
Mastagni said suggestions that the confrontation between the white deputy and the England-born Nigerian Ujiri had racial overtones “added insult to injury” because the deputy’s family includes African Americans.
“This is about a credential, not race,” Mastagni said.
Ujiri, a 2013 NBA Executive of the Year, could face criminal misdemeanor battery charges in the confrontation. Oakland police is investigating and the agency and Alameda County Sheriff’s officials were expected to send reports this week to Alameda County prosecutors.
A call to Alameda County district attorney’s official was not immediately returned Wednesday morning.
“Oakland Police Department is doing a fair, thorough, impartial investigation,” Mastagni said, but called the exchange “a case of a working man being injured” while depicting his client as an underdog fighting against money and privilege.
“Where money and power are prevalent, our office represents the underdog,” he said.
Mastagni, founding partner and managing partner of Sacramento law firm Mastagni Holstedt, has represented peace officers for decades including Sacramento’s police and county sheriff’s employee unions.
Last year, Mastagni represented Alameda County deputies’ union in a court fight with Alameda County over pension benefits, petitioning the state Supreme Court to review and reverse an appeals court decision against the deputies.
Raptors officials contacted Wednesday by The Bee declined to comment beyond a statement issued last Friday that the organization is cooperating with authorities and is looking forward to a resolution.