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Masai Ujiri and ‘The Police Version of Events’

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It’s a lesson worth remembering, for those who report the news and those who read it. When dealing with police stories, you never take the initial word of the folks in blue as gospel. Treating their reports as ironclad truth is too often the default position of the media. Then, especially in these twitter-addicted times, it takes merely a moment for their truth to travel the world. At that point, the cement has set and the damage has been done.

Case in point: the “confrontation” between Toronto Raptors team President Masai Ujiri and an Alameda County police officer following the Raptors NBA championship clinching victory over the Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Like almost everyone who was there, Ujiri rushed the court after the game. Before the champagne had even been uncorked, there were reports from police sources that Ujiri had hit an officer “with two fists” after approaching the court without proper credentials. NBC Bay Area social media editor, Kristofer Noceda, tweeted that night: “#BREAKING: Sheriff’s deputy reportedly pushed and struck in the face by a man believed to be a Toronto Raptors executive after Game 6 of the #NBAFinals at Oracle Arena.”

The initial story was that Ujiri tried to come onto the court without “proper credentials.” Twitter sleuths quickly pointed out that this version of events was suspect since the video and photographs we did have, clearly showed Ujiri with his credentials in hand. The video of the scene that was available online also did not show any kind of two-fisted violence.

Still, after the Raptors left California to return home for their victory parades, talk emerged of a warrant being put out for Ujiri’s arrest on charges of assaulting a police officer. Now that several weeks have passed, that story has changed dramatically. This week the headline is, “Oakland police now confirm an officer pushed Masai Ujuri [sic].”

The officer who first said he was struck by “two fists,” is now claiming a concussion and is said to be considering a lawsuit against the Ujiri and the Raptors. Alameda County Sheriff’s Office now says that it is pursuing a criminal misdemeanor battery charge, not exactly what they would pursue if Ujiri had indeed concussed a cop.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has also said it has photos of Ujiri assaulting the officer and gave them to the Toronto Globe and Mail, saying, “[We wanted] to show that a crime did occur when people are saying that … there was no strike to the face, when in fact there was.” Yet witnesses have said that they did not see a crime occur and there is no video—despite the presence of hundreds of cameras—that has emerged to corroborate the police claims.

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