A retired NBA star was escorted off a United Airlines flight this summer after a confrontation with a race-baiting flight attendant over switching seats, he claims in a lawsuit.
Former Utah Jazz point guard Eric Murdock, 50, who once held the league record for steals, was flying home to Newark Airport from a Las Vegas conference on Flight 1537 in July when he asked to sit in the empty emergency exit row behind him with his son, who was seated in a different row, he said in a $10 million Brooklyn Federal Court lawsuit he filed with a fellow passenger.
Flight attendants told him the row cost a “premium” price but didn’t say how much, Murdock claimed in court papers. When a ticketed passenger showed up for the space right before takeoff and offered to switch spots with the 6-foot-1 baller, he accepted.
But an irate attendant wasn’t having it, Murdock claims.
The “rude and dismissive” attendant, whom Murdock identified only as “Jane Doe,” ordered Murdock back to his assigned seat and claimed the row had to stay empty.
But 30 minutes into the trip, she allowed a white woman to sit there and refused to explain the discrepancy to Murdock, who is black. The attendant was white.
Another passenger, Brenda Williams, who is black and who did not know Murdock before the flight, questioned why Jane Doe was so rude to Murdock. The attendant allegedly screamed it was none of her business, accused her of recording the incident with her cellphone and tried to grab the device out of her hands, according to court papers.
Murdock returned to his assigned seat. Later, when Jane Doe came down the aisle for beverage service, she allegedly asked Murdock if he was “going to boycott” drinks.
The athlete “did not respond to the obvious race baiting,” according to the lawsuit.
In a statement, Murdock said he feared the country’s current divisive climate “encourages people to be the worst versions of themselves.”
When the plane finally landed, Murdock, a New Jersey native, and Williams were escorted off by security and questioned by armed guards from the Transportation Security Administration, before being allowed to leave without charges.
The “unjustifiable” removal, which happened in front of other professional athletes and colleagues of Murdock, was humiliating, claim Murdock and Williams in their discrimination lawsuit against United.
A United spokeswoman said the company had “zero tolerance” for discrimination and would look into the allegations.