MANHATTAN (CN) – Former New York Knicks shooting guard Cuttino Mobley claims team exploited his heart condition to gain the upper hand in bargaining with other teams. Mobley seeks punitive damages in a federal disability complaint, and wants defendant Madison Square Garden to pay 25 percent of it to the nonprofit Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association.
Mobley was a hot NBA shooting guard from 1999 to 2008, and led the Los Angeles Clippers to within one game of the Western Conference Finals in 2006.
“In the fall of 2008, however, the New York Knicks negotiated to take over his contract – and ended his career. The Knicks were aware, prior to the trade, that Mobley had been diagnosed with a heart condition. This condition did not affect Mobley’s ability to play basketball. Mobley had never had any symptoms, and had been medically cleared to play every year of his career,” according to the complaint.
“Spotting what they evidently thought was a weakness, though, the Knicks decided to take advantage. First, they tried to raise the heart condition to gain the upper hand in bargaining with the Clippers. When that attempt did not succeed, they proceeded with the trade, but sent Mobley to a doctor they knew would disqualify him from playing. The Knicks’ maneuver gained them a double savings: First, insurance paid most of Mobley’s salary. Second, his salary no longer counted toward their total payroll for the purposes of the ‘luxury tax,’ a surcharge they paid if the total payroll went above a set amount, or ‘salary cap.’ The Knicks saved millions, and cleared room under the salary cap in their quest to retain the services of other marquis players, but Mobley’s career was effectively ended.”
Mobley claims the Knicks owed the highest amount in “luxury tax” payments in the NBA in 2007, $45 million.
He sued Madison Square Garden LP, MSG Holdings LP, and Madison Square Garden Inc. for disability discrimination. The defendants own and operate the Knicks.
Mobley is represented by Milton Williams Jr., with Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard.