Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Former National Basketball Association player Cuttino Mobley sued Madison Square Garden LP, parent of the New York Knicks, alleging that the team discriminated against him based on what it perceived to be a disability.
Mobley, who hasn’t played since the 2008-09 season, says the Knicks ended his career by having him declared medically ineligible to play because of a heart ailment, according to the complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The Knicks said in a statement that Mobley’s lawsuit has no merit.
Mobley, 36, was diagnosed in 1999 with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart wall, according to the complaint. He had been medically cleared every year, by every team he played for, subject to his signing a waiver of liability, according to the document.
The Knicks, who were aware of his condition, agreed to waive a physical examination of Mobley prior to trading for the shooting guard in 2008, according to the complaint.
Instead of sending Mobley to the cardiologist who had treated him for many years, the Knicks selected Mark Estes and then Barry Maron who, according to the suit, were well-known opponents of allowing players with Mobley’s condition to play. Both said Mobley shouldn’t play.
The Knicks saved about $19 million by having Mobley declared medically ineligible to play because insurance paid the player’s salary, according to the complaint. The salary also is forgiven from luxury tax payments, which teams pay for being over the roster spending limit.
“The Knicks’ actions effectively deprived Mobley of the ability to play professional basketball, not only for the Knicks, but for the rest of his career,” according to the complaint.
Mobley hasn’t officially retired and several teams expressed interest in signing him but backed out because he had been medically disqualified from playing for the Knicks, according to the complaint. The teams weren’t identified.
The Knicks said in their statement that on the day of his retirement, “Cuttino publicly stated that he had no choice but to follow the advice of the doctors and step away from the league.”
“Although we understand Cuttino Mobley’s frustration with the effects of his illness, we are extremely disappointed in his recent actions,” according to the team statement.
Mobley seeks unspecified monetary damages, 25 percent of which he said he would donate to the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association.
The disease killed Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics and Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount University. The Knicks acquired Eddy Curry in a 2005 trade with the Chicago Bulls, who had asked the player to take a DNA test to determine whether he was susceptible to the condition. Curry had missed games due to an irregular heartbeat.
The case is Mobley v. Madison Square Garden LP, 11-08290, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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