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Masai Ujiri Lawsuit Ends, Push for Racial Justice Begins

By: Owen Sandstrom

The eighteen-month nightmare for Toronto Raptor’s President Masai Ujiri is finally over.[1] On February 10, 2021, Alameda County Deputy Alan Strickland dismissed his lawsuit with prejudice against Masai Ujiri who also dismissed his counterclaims against Strickland.[2] Strickland initially filed the lawsuit in February 2020, stemming from an incident that occurred at Oracle Arena after the Toronto Raptor’s championship clinching game six victory over the Golden State Warriors.[3] Ujiri was attempting to enter the basketball court to celebrate with his team when he was stopped by Strickland who was working security at the game.[4] While Ujiri’s ordeal is over, his call for racial justice is just beginning.

Following the incident, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Ujiri after a thorough investigation of the incident.[5] Strickland then brought a civil suit against Ujiri for over $75,000.[6] In his initial complaint, Strickland alleged (1) assault, (2) battery, (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (4) negligence, and (5) loss of consortium.[7] Specifically, Strickland alleged Ujiri failed to provide proper credentials and then hit Strickland “in the face and chest with both fists.”[8] Strickland claimed this caused “injury to his head, body, health, strength, nervous system, and person.”[9] 

Ujiri answered and counterclaimed, calling Strickland’s version of events “a complete fabrication,” and alleging (1) use of excessive force, (2) assault, (3) battery, and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress against Strickland.[10] The Court denied Strickland’s motion to dismiss Ujiri’s counterclaims.[11] Strickland’s bodycam footage backed Ujiri’s story showing Ujiri attempting to pull out his credentials and Strickland then shoving Ujiri back twice, followed by Ujiri lightly pushing Strickland away but never punching Strickland.[12] This bodycam footage likely played a role in Strickland’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit.

Following the dismissal of the lawsuit, Ujiri revealed that in the aftermath of the incident he began to question his own account of what happened: “you begin to doubt yourself . . . you start to actually wonder what really happened.”[13] The bodycam footage gave Ujiri a feeling of vindication. Now, Ujiri is calling for justice for others who are wrongly accused and that do not have bodycam footage showing what actually happened or access to legal resources.[14]


[1] Marcus White, Sheriff’s deputy drops Ujiri lawsuit one year after filing, NBC Sports (Feb. 10, 2021), https://www.nbcsports.com/bayarea/warriors/masai-ujiri-lawsuit-dropped-alameda-county-sheriffs-deputy-after-year.

[2] Strickland et al v. Ujiri et al, No. 3:20-cv-00981 (N.D. Cal. dismissed Feb. 10, 2020).

[3] Cindy Boren, Sheriff’s deputy claims Raptors’ Masai Ujiri is using race as a factor in lawsuit, Washington Post (Sept. 2, 2020, 11:06 AM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/09/02/ujiri-lawsuit-race/.

[4] Id.

[5] The Associated Press, Raptors president Masai Ujiri won’t face charges for NBA Finals incident, CBC (Oct. 22, 2019, 8:55 PM), https://www.cbc.ca/sports/basketball/nba/nba-raptors-president-masai-ujiri-nba-finals-1.5331477.

[6] Complaint for Personal Injuries and Damages: (1) Assault, (2) Battery, (3) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, (4) Negligence, (5) Negligence, (6) Loss of Consortium at 9, Strickland et al v. Ujiri et al, No. 3:20-cv-00981 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2020).

[7] Id. at 1.

[8] Id. at 3.

[9] Id. at 5.

[10] Defendants Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors, and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment’s Amended Joint Answer and Counterclaim of Ujiri at 2, 12, Strickland et al v. Ujiri et al, No. 4:20-cv-000981-YGR (N.D. Cal. Sept. 16, 2020).

[11] Order Denying Motion to Dismiss Defendant Ujiri’s Counterclaims, Strickland et al v. Ujiri et al, No. 20-cv-981-YGR (N.D. Cal. Jan. 19, 2021).

[12] Johnathan Hawkins & Eleni Giokos, Dramatic new bodycam footage shows Sheriff’s Deputy shoved Raptors’ president during altercation, CNN (Aug. 21, 2020, 4:42 AM), https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/19/sport/masai-ujiri-toronto-raptors-push-nba-san-francisco-spt-intl/index.html.

[13] Kelly McCarthy, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri calls for racial equality after NBA Finals incident, Good Morning America (Feb. 24, 2021), https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/culture/story/toronto-raptors-president-masai-ujiri-calls-racial-equality-76082751.

[14] McCarthy, supra note 11.