ATLANTA (CN) – A former NBA referee-turned-tailor claims Atlanta Hawks star Dominique Wilkins beat him and had him arrested on false charges for asking for the $12,000 Wilkins owed him for custom-made suits.
Rashan Michel sued Dominique Wilkins and Atlanta Spirit LLC dba the Atlanta Hawks in Fulton County Court.
Michel, a former NBA referee turned custom clothier for professional athletes, says he maintains social and business relationships with many Hawks players.
He says he ran into Wilkins after a March 30 Hawks game at Philips Arena in Atlanta, while talking to friends in the stands reserved for the players’ families.
“Defendant Wilkins, who had just come off duty as a sports announcer calling the game for CNN, was also visiting the area where the players’ families were seated,” the complaint states.
“As vice president of community relations for the Hawks, Wilkins was expected to maintain rapport with fans, to interact with players and their families, and to serve as a public face for the Hawks organization.”
Wilkins, who has been the Hawks’ vice president of basketball operations since 2004, is also a TV analyst for the team.
Michel says he confronted Wilkins about a $12,000 debt that Wilkins failed to pay after multiple extensions.
“Plaintiff had previously given Wilkins a custom-made suit to wear when he was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, and in appreciation for the gift, Wilkins had purchased an additional $12,000 worth of suits, but Wilkins never paid plaintiff for them,” according to the complaint.
Michel says Wilkins became aggressive when he asked if he intended to pay the debt.
“Embarrassed that plaintiff had mentioned the debt, Wilkins began arguing with plaintiff, shouting, ‘I built this house!’ and cursing plaintiff for bringing up the matter in front of his peers,” the complaint states.
“Defendant Wilkins quickly lost his temper and began beating plaintiff with his fists.
“Plaintiff attempted to defend himself, but he was unable to land any punches on Wilkins, who struck him several times about the face and the head.
“Hawks security guards stepped in and restrained plaintiff, who struck one of the guards defensively while trying to break free because Wilkins was still throwing punches at him.
“At no time did plaintiff physically provoke or threaten violence to defendant Wilkins, who escalated the conversation into a physical confrontation by intentionally inflicting violent injury upon plaintiff without any factual or legal justification.
“The Hawks security guards asked defendant Wilkins what had happened, and he falsely stated that plaintiff had assaulted him.
“Hawks security personnel directed the Atlanta police to place plaintiff under arrest, falsely stating that plaintiff had assaulted defendant Wilkins when it was in fact Wilkins who had assaulted plaintiff.”
Michel says he was arrested and charged with simple battery, based on Wilkins’ false accusations. He was released on $1,300 bond the next day.
The charges were dropped.
Wilkins, who played for the Hawks from 1982 to 1994, was not arrested or charged.
The complaint adds: “As a result of his arrest and the surrounding publicity, plaintiff was told that he could no longer perform his seasonal job as a college referee for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) out of concern that he was too controversial, thereby causing plaintiff to suffer a significant loss of income.”
Michel says he also lost income from his custom clothing business, and suffered stress, anxiety and bodily injuries.
He seeks punitive damages for battery, negligence, false arrest and imprisonment and malicious prosecution. He is represented by Craig Jones with Page Perry.
Wilkins, nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film” for his theatrical dunks, was listed as 6 feet 8 inches tall and 230 lbs. during his playing days.