A $10 million lawsuit has been filed against LeBron James and rappers Drake and Future over “intellectual property rights” over a film about segregated Canadian hockey.
Billy Hunter is the former head of the NBA Players Association and an ex-federal prosecutor. The New York Post reports that the suit claims exclusive legal rights for any motion picture production of the Colored Hockey League are Hunter’s.
For his part, Hunter seeks a share of the profits from the documentary and $10 million in damages.
Hunter claims that a deal was cut behind his back by the defendants and the authors of “Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925.”
He said he was fascinated by the reality that there was a Black-only professional hockey league and believed “that had to be a movie.” Hunter is a long-time civil rights activist.
George and Darril Fosty, the authors of Black Ice, are also listed as defendants for what the filing said was working out a side deal with James and the rappers.
It's clear there's no love lost between former NBPA chief Billy Hunter and LeBron James. Hunter, who blames James in part of his 2013 ouster, is suing the NBA legend and others over the rights to the book that inspired the "Black Ice" doc. https://t.co/mEIMhDmW2G
— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) September 6, 2022
The suit alleges that the authors were paid $265,000 by James and his associates for the film rights to the book. The documentary is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival this week and is directed by the Oscar-nominated Hubert Davis.
Hunter told the Post that he believes the defendants did not think the intellectual property rights would be litigated. He said “they thought I would go away. They gambled.”
The suit, filed by attorney Larry Hutcher, said the defendants are internationally known sports and music figures of great respect. It does not, the suit said, “afford them the right to steal another’s intellectual property.”
The complaint alleges that the Fosty brothers claimed that the film would not violate their agreement with Hunter due to being a documentary. However, the lawsuit said that a documentary is still a “motion picture” and any claims otherwise are made in bad faith.
An option agreement was entered for film rights between Hunter and the authors for $10,000 in 2019.