For one NBA player, the labor strike is not the only thing allegedly keeping him off the court. Far away from the drama of the NBA labor dispute, former NBA player Cuttino Mobley has alleged that the New York Knicks discriminated against him based on his disability in violation of New York State and City disability law. Mobley filed his lawsuit against Madison Square Garden LP (the company that owns and operates the Knicks) and related companies in federal court in the Southern District of New York.
In his suit, Mobley alleges that the Knicks took steps to intentionally end his career after acquiring him in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008. He asserts that prior to the trade, “he had a successful career and solid performance record playing for teams in the [NBA], including leading the Los Angeles Clippers to within one game of the Western Conference Finals in 2006.” His complaint details many other accomplishments throughout his collegiate and professional careers. He then claims that “the New York Knicks negotiated to take over his contract – and ended his career.”
Mobley was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (“HCM”) in 1999, but was continuously cleared to play by doctors throughout his career. According to the complaint, the Knicks knew about this condition and “attempted to extort further concessions from the Clippers because” of it. When the Clippers refused, the Knicks went ahead with the trade, agreeing to waive a physical exam prior to concluding the deal.
Mobley alleges that after completing the trade, the Knicks refused to send him to his own cardiologist, insisting that he be seen by two cardiologists who “were both well-known opponents of allowing players with HCM to play.” The doctors refused to clear him to play. Mobley claims that he “was forced and pressured by the Knicks to announce his retirement in or about December 2008.” Mobley alleges that the Knicks “were able to save both the money that the insurance paid toward his salary and the money that they would have had to pay toward the luxury tax.” Additionally, Mobley maintains that even if it was “too dangerous to play basketball without an accommodation, it would have been possible to implant a defibrillator in his heart” that would have allowed him to play.
The Mobley lawsuit is a stark reminder of the ever increasing number of employment lawsuits in the sports industry. Employment cases against sports teams have brought them unwanted publicity. The Jackson Lewis Collegiate and Professional Sports Industry Group works with clients in the sports industry to avoid such lawsuits.