While Masai Ujiri had his 2019 NBA championship celebration ruined after a law enforcement officer tried to prevent him from stepping on the court, the Toronto Raptors president wants to focus on other minorities who have similar interactions with police daily.
“I say it as humbly as I can: The privilege of the job I have is to fight for this,” Ujiri said during a Wednesday morning interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“They are wrongly accused, there is no body cams, nobody sees what happens, and they are incarcerated or they are accused or they are charged. We have to fight for them.”
This was Ujiri’s first television interview since the lawsuit against him from Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland was dropped.
“As much as we say, ‘Yeah, this happened to me,’ there’s worse that’s happened to other people, right?” Ujiri said. “I lost a moment. People have lost their lives.”
After the Raptors secured the franchise’s first championship in 2019 against the Golden State Warriors, Ujiri was making his way to the court, during which he was approached aggressively by Strickland, only for star player Kyle Lowry to usher the executive onto the hardwood.
“We don’t just go buy championships in Walmart or something,” Ujiri said. “It’s something you’re trying so hard to do, and you’re trying to figure out, ‘How do I go and celebrate with my guys?’ And now you get this confrontation, and it confuses you, you know? And, honestly, I was confused. I was taken aback, and I didn’t know how to react.”
“I called my wife, I called my family, and I couldn’t sleep for three or four days in the bubble,” Ujiri said of his reaction upon seeing the body cam footage. “Because seeing that tape … yes, you are vindicated, yes, this is the right story. [But] people said, ‘You punched a police man, you hit his jaw, you broke his jaw.’ There’s all kinds of things [being said], and you begin to doubt yourself as time goes on. You begin to actually wonder what really happened.”
Ujiri, a substantial philanthropist himself through his Giants of Africa organization, simply hopes to move forward after this event while shining light on the issue of respect.
“I want people to really think about humanity and who we are as human beings,” Ujiri said. “It is really, really important we treat each other well.”
The Raptors currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 16-16 record.
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