Adam Silver Apologizes to Masai Ujiri for Remarks on 2019 Finals Altercation

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2021

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during an interview before Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

NBA commissioner Adam Silver apologized to Masai Ujiri for comments that seemingly blamed the Toronto Raptors president for a 2019 altercation with a police officer at the NBA finals. 

Silver had given an interview in October 2019 with Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, saying Ujiri should avoid those situations. 

"When I watch that last bit of the interview, in light of what we now know, I would love to take those words back," Silver told Michael Grange of Sportsnet. "[Masai] and I at this point have probably talked about that night 100 times since then. He has my full and unequivocal support.

"But I apologize to Masai for what I said in that interview. ... Believe me, when I look at that now, I cringe when I watch it."

Alameda County (California) sheriff's deputy Alan Strickland claimed Ujiri assaulted him when the executive was attempting to reach the court after the Raptors won Game 6 of the 2019 NBA finals. He was sued by Strickland, who claimed Ujiri struck him in the arm and shoulder, while Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern wanted the district attorney to charge him with battery of a peace officer.

Bodycam footage later showed Strickland initiated contact and shoved Ujiri twice when he attempted to show his credentials. Ujiri countersued Strickland, and the lawsuits were both dropped earlier this month.

The outcome vindicated Ujiri, but also made Silver's previous words look much worse (17:20):

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"It's part and parcel of what comes with someone who is living on the edge a bit and is hard-wired to sort of march forward with incredible energy," the commissioner said in 2019. "Lessons learned for him—without assigning culpability or blame to anyone—as a leader, those are the kinds of situations he needs to learn to avoid."

With the NBA becoming more involved in social justice issues over the past year, Silver clearly saw the harm of his past statement.