Toronto Raptors' attorneys argue 'firefighter's rule' applies to deputy who shoved basketball president

The California attorneys representing a Toronto Raptors basketball executive are arguing that the "firefighter's rule" applies in the case of an Alameda County Sheriff's deputy who was seen on video shoving president Masai Ujiri twice after the Canadian team beat the Golden State Warriors in Oakland last summer. 

In briefs filed in federal court this week, lawyers for the firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame argued that the rule recognizes that firefighters and police officers regularly encounter a certain amount of risk in their jobs, and it would not be OK to let them sue private individuals for injuries they might sustain during the regular course of their work.

The deputy, Alan Strickland, alleges he suffered physical and emotional damage after Ujiri "hit him in the face and chests with both fists," on June 13, 2019, at the Oracle Arena. And he filed a federal suit against Ujiri in February, alleging assault and battery, which affected his head, jaw, chin and teeth.

Strickland's Walnut Creek attorney, Matthew Grigg, strongly disagrees with the Ujiri team's position.

The firefighter’s rule is inapplicable for many reasons, Grigg argued, also in briefs filed this week, including the fact that Ujiri "knowingly assaulted a peace officer." If a person's actions are "criminal" or "malicious," Grigg said, then it falls outside the scope of this protection. 

On the basis of Strickland's telling of the events, the Alameda County Sheriff recommended Ujiri be criminally charged last fall. However, the District Attorney declined to do. 

Alan Strickland says he had facial swelling after he was shoved by Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. This is his photo from the hospital.

Video first released by KTVU in August shows that Strickland was actually the first to shove Ujiri, whom he said didn't have the proper credentials to step onto the court after the Raptors beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Ujiri's legal team has repeatedly argued Ujiri did have an all-access credential, which can be seen dangling from his hand on the video. 

KTVU also first reported that Strickland has a prior insurance fraud conviction. 

Strickland has not been back to work since the shove. And he has collected workers' compensation for the 17 months he has been home, KTVU first reported.

And so, collecting any more money would be inappropriate, Ujiri's lawyers argued:  "Such suits also risk double recovery, a particularly fitting consideration here in light of the over $142,000 Strickland has received in public workers’ compensation benefits, purportedly for injuries resulting from an 11-second encounter he himself initiated."

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez