Former pro-basketball player Eric Murdock is suing United Airlines for $10 million.
He claims he was escorted off a plane after a flight attendant engaged in “obvious race-baiting” toward him.
The former Utah Jazz player, 50, says in his lawsuit, filed in a federal court in New York City, that he was traveling with his son and asked to switch seats to be next to him during a July 13 flight from Las Vegas to Newark, New Jersey, New York Daily News first reported.
According to the outlet, the lawsuit states one flight attended gave Murdock permission to move, but another told him he wasn’t allowed to relocate because the empty seats were in an exit row and therefore considered “premium” seats, for which the airline charged an additional fee. She did not disclose the price, he says. The crew member, who the suit calls “rude and dismissive,” then allegedly yelled at him in front of nearby passengers, the New York Post reports.
Shortly after Murdock, who is black, made his request, a white woman changed seats to sit in the exit row. When the flight attendant who allegedly rebuked him offered the woman a drink, Murdock questioned her about the discrepancy, but he claims she told him to mind his own business, according to the Daily News.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, United Airlines, said, “At United, we proudly hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We are looking into the allegations, and because we have not yet been served with the lawsuit, we are unable to provide further comment.”
In the documents, the athlete also referenced another passenger on the flight, Brenda Williams, who is also black, who claimed she was harassed and joined the lawsuit. Williams says she came to Murdock’s defense by trying to record the exchange.
The Daily News reports the lawsuit claims the flight attendant tried to force Williams to surrender her phone, shouting, “Erase the video now, or give me your phone … It’s against the law to record me!”
United’s policy about recording on flights does not directly address the circumstances Williams recounts. It states, “The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided you limit the purpose of your photography and video to capturing personal events. Any photographing or recording that creates a safety or security risk or that interferes with crew members’ duties is prohibited.”
Later in the flight, while providing drinks to passengers, the same flight attendant allegedly asked if Murdock and Williams had plans “to boycott,” the service.
According to the Post, when the aircraft landed, Williams and Murdock were removed from the plane and questioned by TSA agents before being allowed to get their bags. They left without being charged, the legal documents state.
After the court filing, Murdock released a statement.
“In this divisive time people are emboldened to be the worst version of themselves,” he wrote. “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.”
United hasn’t been sh*t for a while, so we more than believe Mr. Murdoch.