Billy Hunter, former executive director of the NBA Players Association, is suing LeBron James, Drake, and other related parties for what he claims is a violation of his intellectual property rights over a documentary about Black Canadian hockey, the New York Post reported.
Hunter says in the suit that he bought the IP rights to make an “audiovisual adaptation” of the tale from the authors who wrote a book about it — and he’s looking for $10 million in damages. The book is called Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925 and was written by George Fosty and Darril Fosty, who are also defendants in Hunter’s suit, the outlet reported.
Hunter’s lawyer, Larry Hutcher of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, told Entrepreneur that Hunter paid for the rights to create a movie based on the Frosty book.
“He believes in the project, he thinks it’s a great story. He invested a lot of money into preserving it,” Hutcher said, adding that his client is still working on the movie and still hopes to complete it at some point.
The lawsuit claims that the authors made a deal with LeBron and associates despite Hunter objecting to it, and sending a breach of contract letter in November 2021.
“They went to Billy, and Billy said ‘I have no interest in selling my rights,'” Hutcher said.
The book documents how descendants of enslaved people who had run from the United States formed a hockey league in Canada that changed “the winter game from the primitive gentleman’s pastime of the nineteenth century to the modern fast-moving game of today,” according to the summary at the back of the book.
James’ production companies are both named as defendants, (The Springhill Company, Uninterrupted Canada) as are the singer and rapper Drake’s entertainment company Dreamcrew Entertainment, producer Future, James’s business partner, Maverick Carter, the company that published the Frosty book, and a film firm called First Take Entertainment, the New York Post reported.
LeBron James has been in the NBA since 2003 and currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. James is also an entrepreneur with an estimated net worth of about $1 billion.
Hunter was ousted from his position at the National Basketball Players Association unanimously in 2013 after a law firm’s independent report “revealed an unflattering portrayal of the way Hunter conducted business, including questionable hiring practices, financial decisions, contract negotiations, use of vacation days and potential misuse of union funds for travel,” USA Today wrote at the time.