Former NBA star Eric Murdock has filed a lawsuit against United Airlines, in which he seeks $10 million for what he described as a “race-baiting” incident on one of their flights.
The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of New York, alleges that Murdock requested permission from a flight attendant to move to the emergency exit row, which was empty, so that he could sit with his son. The flight attendant informed him that the seats in the emergency exit row cost a premium price, but did not detail the price difference.
As the plane was still boarding, a passenger arrived to claim the seat but offered to switch with Murdock so that he and his son could sit together. He accepted and switched seats, but the unnamed flight attendant told him to switch back, claiming that some of the seats must remain empty.
Roughly half an hour later, the same flight attendant was asked by a white woman if she could sit in the same seat that Murdock, an African-American, had requested. This time, the request was granted.
According to the lawsuit, another African-American passenger named Brenda Williams noticed what had happened, and asked the flight attendant what the problem was. The attendant then allegedly became very irate with Williams, telling her to “mind her own business”, accusing her of taping the altercation on her phone, and attempting to take the phone in question off of Williams. No video of the incident has come to light as of yet.
At another stage in the roughly 5-hour flight from Las Vegas to Newark airport, the same attendant was handing out drinks and asked Murdock if he was going to boycott them. According to the filing, he did not respond. Finally, upon landing, both Murdock and Williams were escorted off the plane and interrogated by armed guards.
The incident is the latest in a long string of bad publicity for United Airlines, which first shot to infamy in April 2017 after forcibly dragging Dr. David Dao off one of their flights. Since then, the airline has also been blamed for the preventable deaths of 3 dogs, and the world’s largest rabbit. When asked for comment about the Murdock case, United said they could not comment on an ongoing case, but that they had “zero tolerance” for discrimination.