OAKLAND, Calif. _ Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is under investigation and could face criminal charges after he is suspected of pushing and striking an Alameda County sheriff's deputy in the face Thursday night following Game 6 of the NBA Finals, authorities said Friday.
He was not arrested and both the sheriff's office and Oakland police will submit reports to the district attorney's office which will decide what, if any, charges will be filed. At this point the incident is being investigated as a misdemeanor battery, authorities said.
The confrontation, captured on security and other videos as well as the deputy's body camera, happened moments after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors 114-110 to capture the NBA championship.
Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said Friday that Ujiri tried to come on the court to join the team but did not have the proper credentials.
"You have to have special credentials to get on the court," Kelly said. "We were told by the NBA to strictly enforce credentialing. We have an obligation to make sure everyone is safe. Everyone knows of the policy. He did not have his credentials displayed. It's an NBA rule they have to be visible."
Kelly said when the deputy, a member of the department's bomb squad, tried to stop Ujiri, who he did not know, Ujiri "pushed the deputy out of the way to get on the court. The deputy pushed him back and said he could not get on the court."
Kelly said Ujiri shoved the deputy again but this time his arm went up and "struck the deputy in the face," Kelly said. He was not injured. His name has not been released.
At that point NBA officials who were present stepped in and got Ujiri away and allowed him to join the celebration, Kelly said.
Ujiri could have been arrested at the scene but "given the dynamics of the situation we decided to take the high road" and submit reports of the incident to the district attorney for a criminal complaint, Kelly said.
He said numerous witness statements have either already been obtained or will be, and investigators are reviewing numerous videos, including the body camera footage.
That process normally takes several days so a decision on any criminal charges most likely won't be made until next week at the earliest, authorities said.
Kelly said the sheriff's department is also in contact with the NBA about what happened. So far neither the Raptors nor the NBA has commented.
Ujiri is the person most credited for bringing Canada its first NBA title, after adding NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors' roster last offseason. Moments after making it to the floor, Ujiri was being interviewed by ESPN's Doris Burke while simultaneously having rumors begin to swirl about lucrative offers from other NBA teams headed his way.
The altercation between Ujiri and the sheriff's deputy marked the second incident at Oracle Arena during the NBA Finals between someone affiliated with one of the teams. During Game 3 on June 5, Mark Stevens, a minority owner of the Warriors, shoved Toronto's Kyle Lowery after the player dove into the courtside seats to save a loose ball.
The league took quick action, and the NBA and the Warriors announced that Stevens has been banned from attending any NBA game for one year and fined $500,000 for his actions.
In a statement, Stevens took "full responsibility" for his actions and said he was "embarrassed by what transpired."
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