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Raptors president Masai Ujiri says ‘frivolous’ lawsuit against him is ‘motivated by greed,’ files counterclaim against sheriff’s deputy – Toronto Star

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Lawyers for Masai Ujiri filed a counterclaim in an Oakland court Tuesday, citing the Toronto Raptors president was subjected to an “unprovoked and unnecessary use of excessive force” in his response to a lawsuit from a California sheriff’s deputy stemming from a June 2019 incident following Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

The 108-page counterclaim, filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland, includes the NBA, the Raptors and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment as co-plaintiffs with Ujiri.

It said a body-cam video included in the filing shows Ujiri was not the aggressor in an altercation with Alan Strickland, a sheriff’s deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Strickland was acting as a guard near the Oracle Arena court on the night the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to win the first championship in franchise history. He tried to prevent Ujiri from going on the court to take part in the celebration, later claiming Ujiri didn’t have proper credentials.

The counterclaim says that the edited video shows Ujiri attempting to pull out his all-access team credential as he approaches Strickland and the court.

Strickland then grabs Ujiri by the jacket, pushing him and telling him to “back the f– up.”

Ujiri asks Strickland why he pushed him, identifying himself as the Raptors president and producing his credential again as the two exchange words.

“After being shoved and cursed at, Mr. Ujiri did not respond aggressively toward Mr. Strickland . . . Rather than trying to communicate with Mr. Ujiri, Mr. Strickland chose to dismiss Mr. Ujiri’s claim that he was the Raptors’ president and ignore the all-access credential Mr. Ujiri was trying to show him. Mr. Strickland then forcefully shoved Mr. Ujiri a second time.

“Only after being unjustifiably told to ‘back the f– up’ and shoved twice did Mr. Ujiri show any response and return a shove to Mr. Strickland’s chest. Mr Ujiri’s defensive response was a reasonable and justified reaction to Mr. Strickland’s use of unnecessary and excessive force.”

The edited video, which includes overhead shots of Ujiri’s path to the court and Strickland, eventually shows Raptors guard Kyle Lowry pulling Ujiri to the court to celebrate.

“We are mindful this remains before the courts, but we have always maintained that the claims made against Masai are baseless and entirely without merit,” a Raptors spokesperson said in a statement late Tuesday night.

“We believe this video evidence shows exactly that — Masai was not an aggressor, but instead was the recipient of two very violent, unwarranted actions. The events of that evening cast a pall over what should have been a night of celebration, and the year since. While Masai has the full backing of Raptors and MLSE as he fights this injustice, we are aware that not all people have similar support and resources. This is a spurious legal action that MLSE, the NBA, and especially Masai should not be facing.”

After a lengthy police probe into the incident, the possibility of criminal prosecution was dismissed. In February, however, Strickland filed a suit alleging he was battered and assaulted, suffering injuries to his head, jaw and teeth.

He and his wife, Kelly Strickland, are seeking US$75,000 in general damages as well as other compensation, including punitive damages, lost wages, current and future medical expenses and legal costs. Strickland also filed a workers’ compensation claim, which alleged Ujiri “circumvented” the security checkpoint and tried to hit him in the face and chest with both fists.

“Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland is perpetrating a fraud against Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors, the NBA, and the California Division of Workers’ Compensation by falsely claiming he was injured during a brief encounter with Toronto Raptors’ President, Masai Ujiri, after Game 6 of the NBA Finals,” the lawsuit states.

“There is, however, no objective evidence to support Mr. Strickland’s alleged injuries and video evidence, including footage from Mr. Strickland’s body camera, 1 shows Mr. Strickland subjected Mr. Ujiri to an unprovoked and unnecessary use of excessive force.”

The counterclaim goes on to state Strickland’s version of the 11-second encounter with Ujiri is a “complete fabrication.”

“Sadly, Mr. Strickland’s dishonest account of the encounter is a narrative that has become somewhat familiar: a law enforcement officer using their position, engages in unjustified violence against a peaceful individual, then lies about the encounter by characterizing the victim as the aggressor,” reads the counterclaim.

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“To be sure, the great majority of law enforcement officers do not conduct themselves in this way. Mr. Strickland, however, has chosen dishonesty over integrity. Motivated by greed (and perhaps revenge), Mr. Strickland continues to lie about his encounter with Mr. Ujiri in an attempt to support his frivolous lawsuit.”

The counterclaim includes statements from three witnesses who claim Ujiri did not strike Strickland with closed fists or hit him in the face.

Strickland was previously charged with insurance fraud and making false statements in 1994, the counterclaim states, citing court records that say “he purposefully damaged his own vehicle and then submitted a claim to his insurer for the damage he intentionally caused, and ultimately pled guilty to misdemeanor insurance fraud in December 2005.”

“Despite his criminal conviction, Strickland continues to make false claims.”

The Star has reached out to attorneys for Strickland with a request for comment.

With files from Doug Smith

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UFC 253 video: Cold open with Ron Perlman released – MMA Fighting

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The UFC has released the cold open for tonight’s pay-per-view event and sets the table for a a rare and pivotal middleweight title fight between champ Israel Adesanya and challenger Paulo Costa.

It’s a rare meeting of two fighters undefeated in MMA, and it’s the top-billed attraction on a fight card that features a second title fight: a battle between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight belt vacated by Jon Jones.

Narrated by the longtime voice of UFC promos, Ron Perlman, check out the feature above as the hours tick toward the fight card Saturday on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

You can also follow full UFC 253 results and get info on the event’s start time here.

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Jays beat Orioles to keep momentum going – TSN

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Cavan Biggio broke up a no-hit bid with a solo home run in the sixth inning, Randal Grichuk added a three-run shot and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 Saturday night.

The Blue Jays need another victory in Sunday’s regular-season finale, and a Miami win over the Yankees in New York, to move up to second place in the AL East and the fifth seed in the league. If not, Toronto will remain in eighth place and get a first-round playoff meeting with the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays.

“Regardless of what happens tomorrow, we’re ready to go,” Biggio said.

Toronto has won four straight and six of seven following a season-worst six-game losing streak.

Baltimore’s John Means (2-4) held the Blue Jays hitless until Biggio broke a scoreless tie with his eighth homer.

Means walked infielder Jonathan Villar, the second batter of the game, and didn’t allow another baserunner until Biggio connected on a 1-0 pitch.

Biggio credited Jonathan Davis, who lined out to end a 10-pitch at bat immediately beforehand, for wearing Means down.

“He really made him work for that out, something that we weren’t doing the whole game,” Biggio said. “I can probably say confidently that (Means) doesn’t hang me a slider there if he isn’t worn out from facing JD.

“Hats off to him, he pitched a great game,” Biggio added. “He made one mistake and that’s what the run was.”

Biggio’s drive to right ended a streak of 16 consecutive outs by Means, including five straight strikeouts at one stretch. The left-hander struck out nine and walked one in six innings.

Means has a 1.52 ERA over his past four starts, giving up just a single run each time. Given how well he’s been pitching, Means isn’t quite ready for end of the season.

“I wish there was 100 games left,” he said.

Grichuk connected on the first pitch he saw from Hunter Harvey in the seventh. It was his 12th homer of the season and the 19th of his career against the Orioles, more than he’s hit against any other opponent. His seven homers against Baltimore this season are the most by one player against a single opponent. Grichuk also homered in Toronto’s 10-5 win Friday.

The Blue Jays scratched right-hander Matt Shoemaker, the scheduled starter, and turned to right-hander T.J. Zeuch. Shoemaker threw a side session before the game, meaning he could be used in the opening round of the playoffs.

Zeuch allowed five hits in five scoreless innings.

Chase Anderson (1-2) got the win, striking out the first four batters he faced in a two-inning relief stint. Anthony Bass got the final four outs for his seventh save in nine chances.

Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. yelped in pain after he fouled a pitch off his left foot in the second inning. Gurriel batted again in the fifth, but was replaced by Grichuk in the top of the sixth. The Blue Jays said Gurriel had a contusion on his foot.

He wasn’t the only Blue Jays player to leave injured. Right-hander Ross Stripling was replaced by Bass after being hit on the right shin by DJ Stewart’s comebacker in the eighth.

“They’re both fine, which is great,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Austin Hays had three hits and José Iglesias had two doubles and drove in a run, but the Orioles lost for the eighth time in 10 games. Baltimore has lost 14 of 18 overall following a 20-21 start.

“There’s been some ups and downs this year,” Hays said, “but I think we showed early on what this team is capable of doing.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: Montoyo said LHP Hyun Jin Ryu is not hurt, but would not commit to starting Ryu in Game 1 of the playoffs. Montoyo said Friday that Ryu was “a little sore” after throwing a season-high 100 pitches over seven innings against the Yankees on Thursday. … INF Rowdy Tellez (right knee) ran the bases and hit on the field before the game.

Orioles: GM Mike Elias confirmed that RHP Michael Baumann was shut down after straining a flexor muscle in his elbow at the team’s alternate training site. One of Baltimore’s top prospects, Baumann is expected to be healthy by spring training. … Elias also said he is optimistic OF Trey Mancini will be able to play next season. Mancini missed this season while undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Mancini completed chemotherapy treatment last Tuesday.

CHEEKY CRIME

Villar stole third base on catcher Pedro Severino’s throw back to the pitcher in the eighth.

ARMED AND DANGEROUS

Hernandez made a strong throw to catch Ryan Mountcastle trying to stretch out a double in the eighth. It was his seventh outfield assist of the season, matching Boston’s Alex Verdugo for most in the majors.

UP NEXT

Baltimore LHP Keegan Akin (1-2, 3.57) starts Sunday’s season finale against Blue Jays RHP Tanner Roark (2-3, 7.01). Akin has struck out 24 batters over 15 innings in September.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Paulo Costa open to competing in two divisions, would move up for Jon Jones – MMA Fighting

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Paulo Costa has no issues making the middleweight limit, but if the right opportunity comes along, he’ll gladly jump up a division.

While it’s obvious Costa is one of the larger fighters competing at 185 pounds, his first concern is conquering his current weight class as he challenges champ Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 253 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.

At media day on Wednesday, Costa told reporters his weight cut is on point for the official weigh-ins, which take place Friday. His weight has been a topic of conversation in the past; he was one of several fighters advised by the California State Athletic Commission to potentially move up a division. The recommendation was made following Costa’s unanimous decision win over Yoel Romero at UFC 241 in August 2019.

Because Costa’s fight night weight (213.8 pounds) was 15 percent higher than his weigh-in day weight (186 pounds), he just came in at the threshold where the CSAC asked a fighter to consider a change in divisions.

Costa, 29, doesn’t expect this to be an issue going forward, and if he ever moves up to light heavyweight, it will be by choice, not necessity.

“Every time that I come here to fight at 185 pounds, it’s been more easy to me,” Costa said. “I don’t know what happened, maybe my body’s getting mature. But as I told before, I could fight at light heavyweight anytime.

“So it depends if I have a very good opponent, a big challenge at light heavyweight or at middleweight, it depends. I have both possibilities to move in both divisions.”

A reporter asked if Costa would be interested in fighting a returning Anthony Johnson, to which he answered, “I think so.” But were he given the option to fight an even bigger fish, one that currently has plans to change divisions himself, that’s a target that Costa couldn’t pass up on.

“If Jon Jones was still there, then I’d definitely want to move up to fight him, but we’ll have to wait for this weekend to see how that fight plays out,” Costa said via a Portugues translator. “But maybe stay at middleweight if it’s interesting.”

Though Costa is 13-0 as a professional with wins in all five of his UFC fights, Adesanya has questioned the resume of his unbeaten challenger. The two have on shared opponent, Romero, with Romero also having notable victories against middleweight veteran Uriah Hall and former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks.

Costa likes how his conquests stack up against those of the champion.

“Israel said that I don’t have a good enough resume, I haven’t fought high-caliber fighters,” Costa said via a Portuguese translator. “I fought Johny Hendricks. Johny Hendricks might have been at the end of his career, but back then people said, ‘Hey, he’s not gonna get through him.’ And I did, and I fought Romero, almost knocked him out, so it doesn’t make too much sense.

“Adesanya was afraid of fighting Romero.”

Costa shied away from anointing his matchup with Adesanya as the greatest middleweight fight in UFC history, saying that he’d leave it to the media to work that angle. He did concede that it is a “rare moment” in MMA to have two undefeated fighters fighting for a world title.

In terms of legacy, though, Costa knows what the middleweight championship means to Brazil given its most well-known titleholder is Anderson Silva, arguably the country’s most beloved fighter. Before making any light heavyweight overtures, Costa is determined to do right by the standard set by Silva.

“It’s continuing the legacy for Brazil,” Costa said via a translator when asked what it means to fight for a title so strongly associated with Silva. “Holding that belt.”

“I’m proud to be a Brazilian,” he continued. “I’m a patriot and I hope that people can value me and realize that I’m the new champion.”

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