Masai Ujiri releases statement after lawsuit from 2019 Finals incident dropped

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Arun Srinivasan
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TORONTO, ON - JULY 20  -   Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri talks to the media during a press conference about the DeMar DeRozan-Kawhi Leonard trade at Scotiabank Arena, Toronto.  July 20, 2018. Bernard Weil/Toronto Star        (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri announced Monday he will not pursue legal options after a lawsuit filed against him was dropped. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri released his first public statement since a lawsuit filed by Alameda Country Sheriff's Deputy Alan Strickland was dropped Feb. 10.

Strickland filed a lawsuit against Ujiri stemming from an incident that occurred after Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, as the Raptors president made his way to the floor to participate in the customary on-court championship celebration. Ujiri was forcefully stopped by Strickland, despite revealing his credentials. Body-cam footage of the incident released by Ujiri's lawyers in August 2020 showed that Strickland was the clear aggressor in the incident.

"I have decided my fight isn't a legal one," Ujiri wrote in his statement. "Now, the challenge is this: What can we do to stop another man or woman from finding themselves in front of a judge or behind bars because they committed no crime other than being Black? That is the work that each one of us must commit to, every day."

Strickland's lawsuit never had much merit to begin with as prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges against Ujiri.

Suing Ujiri, along with the Raptors, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment and the NBA for damages over $75,000, Strickland claimed in his lawsuit that that he incurred injuries that “caused and continue to cause great mental, physical, emotional and psychological pain and suffering,” according to the Globe and Mail.

Ujiri released a countersuit against Strickland, alleging excessive use of force, but dropped the countersuit when Strickland dropped his lawsuit Feb. 10. Both Ujiri and the Raptors had refuted the account of Strickland's lawsuit, with Ujiri calling it "malicious" several times.

Ujiri also released a separate statement via the Raptors' Twitter account where he provided an impassioned plea for everyone to continue to fight for a more equal world, and against systemic racism and police brutality. He noted that Black people often don't have the substantial resources he had to fight such lawsuits in court.

"Seeing that tape was really tough for me. Really, really tough. That moment in Oakland was taken away from me but I've thought bigger than that now," Ujiri said.

"I know there are people that go through worse and have gone through worse, have been killed. I think about this every day, what about those people where's there no body cam? What about those people where if there's if a body cam, they never ever get to see it? They don't have money for lawyers. They are accused and they are accused because they are innocent, they are poor, they're Black and they don't have anything. They don't have anything. And I've thought about how hard it was for me.

"And I'm privileged, I'm blessed, I'm lucky. I'm lucky that I can fight and stand and show and have evidence. There are many people that don't. We have to make it better. We have to fight. We have to stand up. We have to speak up. And if this proves it, then we have to continue to do it. I have to continue to do my part, for the youth, for the future generation. I have to. It's an obligation as a human being. So when I look at this, I ask: who are we as people? Who are we as human beings? I ask, it comes down to human decency. Human decency."

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