Lebron James and rappers Drake and Future are being sued for intellectual property by a former NBA union boss for over $10 million.
The former head of the NBA Players Association, Billy Hunter, claims that his intellectual property of a film about a segregated hockey league from 1895 to the 1930s was Hunter’s idea.
The old union boss is also a former federal prosecutor and filed suit in Manhattan seeking $10 million in damages and royalties from the documentary, according to the New York Post.
While the defendants Lebron James, Drake, and Maverick Carter [Lebron’s business partner] are internationally known and renowned in their respective fields of basketball and music, it doesn’t not afford them the right to steal another’s intellectual property,” says the suit filed by Hunter’s attorney, Larry Hutcher.
In the lawsuit, Hunter accuses defendants who include four-time NBA champion and MVP James and “Nice for What” singer and Canadian Drake and their entertainment companies of cutting a deal behind his back with the authors of the critically acclaimed book that the documentary is based on— “Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895 to 1925.”
The authors, George and Darril Fosty, are also listed as defendants, citing breach of contract for allegedly violating the agreement giving Hunter the rights to produce a movie on the black hockey league and instead working out a side deal with Team Lebron and Drake.
The suit says Hunter paid the authors a total of $265,000 for the movie rights to the story.
The documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Huber Davis, is being showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 10.
“I don’t think they believed the property rights would be litigated. They though I would go away. They gambled,” Hunter 79, who also briefly played professional football in the 1960s, told the Post.
In a possible play on words, Hunter’s lawyer, Hutcher, said it’s “highly ironic” that James and Drake, who “cherish their brands,” would be “so cavalier” as to violate someone else’s movie rights. James started his career with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
A longtime civil rights activists, Hunter, who is black, said he was fascinated with the story of the black-only professional hockey league, reminiscent of the segregated negro professional baseball league in the United States and the civil rights push to break the color barrier. Hockey is the national sport of Canada.
“I just said, ‘Wow.’ That has to be a movie,” he said.
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