The Alameda Police Department has a history of abuse and lack of accountability, and the officer assaulting Toronto Raptors Team President Masai Ujiri, and then lying about it, is only the most high-profile example.
When the Toronto Raptors won the franchise’s first NBA championship last summer, it was cause for a massive celebration. Not just for Torontonians, but for all Canadians.
And especially, for the internal members of the organization, from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, to first-year head coach Nick Nurse, to team president Masai Ujiri.
Except Ujiri, as president of the team who largely handles off-the-court matters, was just that, off the court. And when he ran onto the court to celebrate what should’ve been the most momentous and monumental experience in his career, he was stopped and accosted by a police officer.
The officer, Deputy Alan Strickland, saw Ujiri approaching, and, not recognizing Ujiri’s plastic credential halfway outside of his breast pocket, shoved the team president, also uttering “back the f*** up.
Ujiri, astonished, said, “I’m the president of the Raptors.”
Strickland then shoves him again.
The Raptors president eventually shoved Strickland back, but not forcefully enough to take him off his feet.
Greg Wiener, a season ticket holder who was standing next to the officer, told The Associated Press the police are not telling the truth and are trying to cover up for what the officer did. He said Masai Ujiri never struck the officer in the face or asked for a credential.
— Rob Gillies (@rgilliescanada) June 14, 2019
This was what happened that night, and Strickland later claimed he was punched in the face by Ujiri and that the team president “aggressively attempted to move towards [him] in a confrontational manner.”
Strickland made clear he did not know Ujiri’s position. It must have been unfathomable to the white and middle-aged Strickland that a black man could be in such a position of power.
And, whether conscious or subconscious, it is clear that implicit racial bias caused his actions.
But even if Strickland had just stopped Ujiri right away and asked to see his pass, that could only be seen as subconscious bias and “doing his job.”
But the deputy lied about the entire affair and filed a federal lawsuit against Ujiri, the Raptors, and the NBA. Funny enough Mr. Strickland seems to have somewhat of a criminal record as well.
Masai Ujiri’s counsel also takes an opportunity to demolish the sheriff’s deputy’s character by introducing his criminal record, which includes insurance fraud.
Note to lawyers: Conduct diligence on your own clients before filing suit against a public figure in federal court. pic.twitter.com/114c8zodfc
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) August 19, 2020
In his report, he also used words to describe Ujiri, like “aggressive” and “confrontational,” which would be how a racist would perceive a black man excitedly rushing towards the court to join his players and staff. His family.
My heart hurts seeing the visual of Ujiri hugging star point guard Kyle Lowry, in what should have been the proudest moment of his career, instead clearly shaken by the racial abuse he was just forced to deal with.
Ujiri and his legal team released a statement this past Friday, stating in part:
“Unfortunately, I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement. And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case – because I am Black.”
“What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I’m the President of an NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice. So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter.”
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Thank you to everybody who has expressed disappointment and concern regarding the video that was recently released. My family and I are deeply grateful for your care and consideration. The video sadly demonstrates how horribly I was treated by a law enforcement officer last year in the midst of my team, the Toronto Raptors, winning its first world championship. It was an exhilarating moment of achievement for our organization, for our players, for our city, for our country, and for me personally, given my long-tenured professional journey in the NBA. Yet, unfortunately, I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement. And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case – because I am Black. What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I’m the President of a NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice. So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter. And that’s why it’s important for all of us to keep demanding justice. Justice for George. Justice for Breonna. Justice for Elijah. Justice for far too many Black lives that mattered. And justice for Black people around the world, who need our voice and our compassion to save their lives. Those are the ties that bind us. With love and determination, Masai Ujiri
Ujiri is indisputably one of the best front office workers in the league. His work with the Raptors has revolutionized the franchise, and the team has a real shot at winning the championship again this year, a testament to Ujiri and his staff’s work, especially after losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency.
Ujiri is also incredibly self-aware, recognizing that his ability to seek justice for the police officer’s racist misconduct is only available to a few Black people with the right circumstances.
Where has the justice been for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless other Black lives murdered by police? Birthed in white supremacy and within the foundations of chattel slavery, the police in the U.S. are inherently racist.
And the Alameda Police Department is an example of the worst of police forces; a department that refuses to get it right, to apologize, or seek accountability.
There was the incident in late May, 2020, when Alameda officers arrested a black man for exercising on the street.
“I do this every morning. Let’s me go! I have the right to exercise on my street,” Mali Watkins said after being wrestled to the ground by police.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office decided not to press charges against Watkins. Or the officers who unlawfully detained him.
Just another day on the job for those officers. And without training or punishment, how will they ever learn? ABC News’ Stephanie Sierra spoke with Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri about the incident.
“What needs to change within your department to make sure incidents like that don’t happen again?” asked Sierra.
“There is no Chief, not me, not anybody, who can ever say something will never happen again it’s just not possible,” replied Rolleri.
Talk about a vote of confidence. That answer alone speaks to a lack of remorse and accountability, no matter the other politically correct answers he gave.
Protestors attended a sit-in and rally for Watkins in front of the Alameda Police Department in June.
Protesters attend a sit-in and rally for Mali Watkins at the Alameda Police Department in Alameda on Thursday. Story soon by @Peter_Hegarty & pics by me. #alameda #police #rally #blacklivesmatter #blm #protest @alamedapolice @CityofAlameda @EastBayTimes pic.twitter.com/YWB2FhfCb4
— Tyska (@Tyska) June 12, 2020
Then in July, Rolleri announced his decision to retire, after seven years as chief and 28 years in the department.
Proof that public backlash works, and no matter how vile or repugnant (possibly) the new chief is, public pressure had an effect on society.
To reiterate: policing in the U.S. is inherently racist because it was born as a slave patrol. There is no reforming corruption when its very nature is corrupt. There is only revolution.