Back in June, the Toronto Raptors’ championship celebration came with an extremely odd coda; the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department claiming that Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri “pushed and struck” a deputy who wouldn’t let him on the Golden State Warriors’ court to join the Raptors’ championship celebration, and recommending charges of battery to the county district attorney. That claim included that the deputy “did not know who the man was” (it’s always great to have courtside security deputies who can’t recognize one of the most prominent figures in a series) and that Ujiri “didn’t have the proper credential.”
Video showing Ujiri wearing his credential cast serious doubt on the department’s account of the events, as did video of the exchange (a screencap is seen above) and other eyewitness testimonials (including a Warriors’ season-ticket holder telling the Associated Press “the police are not telling the truth and are trying to cover up for what the officer did“). But the sheriff’s office still referred the matter to the Alameda County district attorney for potential battery charges. And sheriff’s office spokesperson Ray Kelly made a lot of outlandish claims about the incident to the media. Well, four months later (and on the NBA’s opening night, and the night the Raptors were celebrating their championship), the DA quietly declined to file those charges, as per Megan Cassidy of The San Francisco Chronicle:
New: Alameda County DA declines to file charges against Toronto @Raptors exec Masai Ujiri, who was accused of pushing a sheriff's deputy and hitting him in the face
— Megan Cassidy (@meganrcassidy) October 23, 2019
Here are some of those claims that Kelly, the sheriff’s department spokesperson, made back in June:
After the Raptors’ victory, the executive was denied access to the court by a deputy because he didn’t have the proper credential, Kelly said.
“(The deputy) did not know who the man was and asked for the credential, and that’s when he tried to push past our deputy, and our deputy pushed him back, and there was another push that kind of moved up and struck our deputy in the face,” Kelly said. “At that point, several bystanders intervened and the executive did ultimately get back onto the court without displaying credentials.”
“It’s not like we were going to chase him down,” Kelly said. “He had a right to be there, but he didn’t follow the credential policy.”
No arrest was made, but the Sheriff’s department and Oakland Police are conducting a follow-up investigation, talking to witnesses and reviewing video. The case will be submitted to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for a review of charges, Kelly said.
It’s probably quite a smart move for the DA to eventually decline to file charges here, as even the initial incident led to a whole lot of criticism, backlash, and refutation of the sheriff’s office’s portrait of events. Actual charges would have created even more blowback. But it’s interesting that it took four months for the DA’s office to reach that conclusion; while this obviously isn’t the only case the office is considering during that period, and isn’t a particularly urgent one (these alleged actions had no negative impact on the public, there’s no apparent risk to reoffend, and Ujiri isn’t exactly hard to find), it’s still sort of amazing that it took all this time for that office to realize that trying to prosecute Ujiri over this would be a terrible move.
At least they got there in the end, though. And at least the Warriors shouldn’t have to rely on the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for security any further now that they’ve moved to San Francisco. If the team reaches the NBA Finals again, perhaps the security officials at their new arena can bother to look up the identities of important officials on the other team?
[Megan Cassidy on Twitter]