LeBron James and Drake have a hefty lawsuit on their hands over their upcoming hockey documentary, Black Ice. Former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter alleges that he is the one who holds “the exclusive legal rights to produce any film about the Colored Hockey League that existed from 1895 to the 1930s.” So Hunter is bringing the entertainment moguls to court for a slice of the project and $10 million in damages.
“I don’t think they believed the property rights would be litigated. They thought I would go away. They gambled,” Hunter told the New York Post. The suit comes days before Black Ice is to premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
“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 does not afford them the right to steal another’s intellectual property,” his lawsuit states.
It goes on to explicitly say that the actions taken by DreamCrew and Uninterrupted, the media businesses owned by James and Drake, “were and are intentional and carried out for the purpose of disrupting Plaintiff’s legal rights. Each of the DreamCrew Defendants and Uninterrupted Defendants acted with malice as demonstrated by the inflated price they paid for the duplicate option.”
But Hunter is also going after George and Darril Fosty, authors of Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895 to 1925. He claims he paid the Fostys a total of $265K for “exclusive worldwide rights” to any “audiovisual” rendition of their story. However, the brothers allegedly cut a backroom deal with Drake and James on the pretext that a documentary may not strictly fall within that definition.
“A documentary is still a ‘motion picture’ and an ‘audiovisual adaptation’ and any claim to the contrary is absurd and made in bad faith,” said Hunter’s attorney, Larry Hutcher, per the suit.
Representatives for James, Drake, and the Fosty brothers have declined any official comment at this time.