The former commissioner of rapper Ice Cube’s three-on-three basketball league is seeking access to corporate records in connection to claims its co-founders made him a scapegoat for fraud and mismanagement within the organization.
Roger Mason, a former National Basketball Association player and players’ union executive, filed a complaint in Delaware Court of Chancery Monday saying Jeffrey Kwatinetz worked with celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos to oust Mason from the Big3 basketball league after its inaugural season. Mason accuses Kwatinetz of using “horrible racial slurs” to disparage the league’s black players and prominent Middle Eastern investors.
The filing also revealed that Mason, who played 11 seasons in the NBA and helped negotiate two collective bargaining agreements for the National Basketball Players Association, filed a separate action seeking more than $100 million in damages from the Big3 for defamation and breach of contract.
“Kwatinetz sought to make Mason the scapegoat for his own wrongdoing, outrageously blaming Mason for jeopardizing the league’s financial success and ability to enter into professional relationships,” Mason’s Richards, Layton & Finger attorneys wrote.
Kwatinetz and Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson, launched the three-on-three league featuring former NBA stars last summer. However, after opening to promising television ratings, the Big3 began to experience turbulence in its front office, including the defections of its president, chief financial officer and chief creative officer.
Mason was fired in March amid allegations of corruption and his connection to the investment group Sport Trinity. But Mason said Monday he was forced out of his role by Kwatinetz, a veteran entertainment executive, and was the target of a campaign to undermine the authority of the league’s management team.
“Almost from the outset of the league’s operations, Kwatinetz engaged in a malicious, defamatory campaign of disparagement, which interfered with Mason’s ability to effectively perform his duties and responsibilities as president and commissioner,” the complaint said. “Kwatinetz’s wrongful actions have materially diminished Mason’s reputation, position, status, title, authority and responsibilities.”
Kwatinetz and Jackson, meanwhile, have sued Sport Trinity for $1.2 billion in damages, saying the group failed to pay $4 million of its $11.5 million investment in the league, according to media reports. Mason is not named as a defendant in that case, though Mason is cited as having introduced the group’s Qatari investors to the Big3.
According to Mason, Kwatinetz and Geragos set up a “sham investigation” headed by a Geragos associate and then fired Mason for supposedly refusing to cooperate. Mason said he alerted the league to Kwatinetz’s behavior, but was later fired in retaliation.
Mason is seeking information regarding the Big3′s financial condition and whether the company and its managers had complied with their duties under Delaware law. He is also looking to probe the reasons behind his firing and the other high-profile departures, as well as any efforts by the company to defame its former officers.
Mason is represented by Blake Rohrbacher, Kevin M. Gallagher, Brian F. Morris and John M. O’Toole of Richards Layton, and Robert S. Wolf and Philippe A. Zimmerman of Moses & Singerin New York.
An online docket-tracking service did not list attorneys for the Big3.
The case is captioned Mason v. Big3 Basketball.