A retired African-American NBA player wants a flagrant foul called on the airline he said allowed a white woman to sit in a special seat after a flight attendant kicked him out.
Former New Jersey Nets point guard Eric Murdock said he was just trying to sit with his son when he switched seats on a July 13 flight from Las Vegas to Newark Airport.
Murdock, in a $10 million lawsuit against United Airlines, said a flight attendant approved the change, but another flight attendant rudely told him to move, and berated him in front of other passengers.
A short time later, according to the lawsuit, a white woman moved into the section — an emergency exit row. She was not asked to move.
Instead, the same flight attendant offered her beverage service, according to the lawsuit.
When a miffed Murdock asked about it, the flight attendant told him it was none of his business, the suit says.
When a black woman on the flight, Brenda Williams, came to Murdock’s defense, the same flight attendant told her to stay out of it, according to court papers.
Williams, who was holding her phone, was told to stop recording the exchange.
She insisted that she was not recording the standoff, but the flight attendant demanded she surrender her phone.
“Erase the video now, or give me your phone!” the flight attendant said, according to the lawsuit. “ It’s against the law to record me!”
Williams, who did not know Murdock before the flight, joined him in the lawsuit.
After Murdock and Williams returned to their seats, the same flight attendant returned with refreshments, asking Murdock if he wanted a beverage or if he was “going to boycott?”
The lawsuit called the remark “obvious race baiting.”
When Murdock and Williams left the plane, they were met by four armed members of the Transportation Security Administration. After an interview with TSA agents, they were allowed to retrieve their luggage and leave the airport.
“In this divisive time people are emboldened to be the worst version of themselves,” Murdock, 50, said in a statement. “I never thought that I would personally be in this position, but neither will I back down. If I can use the fame and respect which I have gained to achieve social change I will.”
This is not Murdock’s first legal battle.
Murdock received a $500,000 settlement from Rutgers University in 2013 after he sued the school for wrongful termination. After Murdock’s director of basketball player development position was not renewed, he blew the whistle on a a program that was rife with abuse, accusing then-coach Mike Rice of treating players “like slaves.”
Rice was fired.
A United spokeswoman, Erin Benson, said the airline is looking into the incident.
“At United, we proudly hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” Benson said in a statement. “We are looking into the allegations, and because we have not yet been served with the lawsuit, we are unable to provide further comment.”