Raptors President Ujiri Addresses Rare Off Court Issues During NBA Title Run

June 26, 2019 Updated: June 26, 2019

TORONTO—Even a championship can come with hiccups.

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri took time Tuesday in his season-ending press conference to talk about the few off-court negatives in an otherwise overwhelmingly successful championship season.

Ujiri said organizers can do better than the disjointed championship parade last Monday to honour the Raptors’ first NBA title, and the first championship since 1993 for a Canadian team in one of the big four North American leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL).

Raptors Parade Basketball
Fans cheer during the Toronto Raptors NBA basketball championship victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Andrew Lahodynskyj/The Canadian Press via AP)

The procession from the Raptors’ practice facility to city hall took more than five hours, with swarming crowds slowing the procession of double-decker buses carrying players along the parade route. Early reports of fans awaiting the players in the city’s Nathan Phillips Square suffering from dehydration were overshadowed when four people were shot just south of the square, suffering non-life-threatening injuries. Three people were arrested.

“My heart goes out to the people that got hurt and I was going to come out with a statement but I thought I’d wait until today,” Ujiri said. “I will reach out to them eventually and I know our organization has already. That was a very unfortunate situation.”

Raptors Parade Basketball
First responders attend to an injured person after shots were fired during the Toronto Raptors NBA basketball championship victory celebration near Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press via AP)

He said while mistakes were made, it was the Raptors’ first try at a championship rally and future NBA titles will allow planners to work out the kinks.

“I think it was Maya Angelou who said ‘When you know better, you do better,'” he said.

Ujiri also commented publicly for the first time on an alleged altercation with an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office deputy at Oracle Arena after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the Finals in Oakland, Calif.

The officer claims he suffered jaw pain and a concussion when struck in the face by Ujiri as the Raptors president attempted to walk on the arena floor to celebrate with his team, though witnesses have come forward disputing the claim that Ujiri struck the officer.

Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) lifts up the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after being Golden State Warriors for the NBA Championship in game six of the 2019 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena on June 13, 2019. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)
Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) lifts up the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy after being Golden State Warriors for the NBA Championship in game six of the 2019 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena on June 13, 2019. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

The sheriff’s office has said it is considering filing misdemeanour battery charges against Ujiri, while a lawyer for the officer has said his client is considering a civil suit.

A spokeswoman with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that it had not yet received a report on the matter from the police agency.

“I’m going to respect what the process is there,” Ujiri said. “I am confident about who I am as a person, my character and as a human being.”

“I’m going to leave my comments until the whole investigation is done. I think that’s the fair way and the right way to operate when things like this happen. I’ll respect authority and wait until that happens.”

While some Raptors have dismissed the possibility of the Raptors visiting the White House as NBA champions—shooting guard Danny Green recently gave the idea a “hard pass”—Ujiri was diplomatic if unenthusiastic when asked about the thorny issue. Ujiri has been critical of U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported use of a vulgar term when describing some African countries.

“I don’t think the White House is going to be judged by whether we come or not or if we are going to be judged whether we go or not,” he said. “I think collectively we’ll make a decision. I think everybody knows what my decision is.”

“I think a priority for us would be going to see the (prime minister) in our country, in Canada, and I think we’ll go from there.”

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