NEW YORK CITY — A former Jazz point guard is suing United Airlines for $10 million, alleging racial bias and discrimination.
In a lawsuit filed in US District Court in New York, Eric Murdock, who played with Karl Malone and John Stockton, says he asked to sit in an emergency row for the extra leg-room on a United flight from Las Vegas to Newark.
The court filing claims Murdock and another passenger, Brenda Williams, were “discriminated against, harassed, and humiliated by one of [United Airlines’] flight attendants, an unidentified woman” who is referred to in the court filing as Jane Doe.
In the lawsuit, Murdock claims he and his son were assigned separate seats, when he noticed two empty seats in the exit row behind him, and asked whether they could be seated there. A flight attendant who is not the one accused of discrimination told him if no other ticketed passenger had purchased the seats, he could move, but he would have to pay for an upgrade. Murdock says he offered to do so, but was told he could not because he would have to do so at the counter, and the cabin door was already closed.
A ticketed passenger then appeared and offered to move seats so Murdock and his son could sit in the exit row, with approval from that flight attendant, the lawsuit states.
It was after that seat exchange that the flight attendant referred to as Jane Doe in the suit is accused of demanding Murdock move back to his assigned seat. After an exchange in which passengers explained the seat trade, Murdock and his son returned to their original seats.
Later in the flight, however, the suit claims a white woman moved into the exit row, but was not challenged by Jane Doe, and even received beverage service there. Murdock says that’s when he also moved back to the exit row.
He then claims the flight attendant told him to move back to his original seat, but not the white woman.
Williams, who is described in the lawsuit as being concerned about Jane Doe’s actions, asked the flight attendant why she was being rude to Murdock. She says Jane Doe accused her of recording the confrontation on her phone, even though Williams repeatedly insisted she was not recording.
“Erase the video now, or give me your phone!” the flight attendant said, according to the lawsuit. “It’s against the law to record me!”
The lawsuit goes on to say that during the beverage service, Jane Doe asked Murdock if he wanted a beverage or if he was “going to boycott,” a reference to Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus in 1955, setting off a bus boycott that eventually helped lead to desegregation of buses.
When the flight landed at Newark, Murdock and Williams, who did not know each other before the flight, say they were escorted off the plane first and met by armed Transportation Security Administration agents. They say they were interviewed, but allowed to get their bags and leave afterward.
In a statement released to multiple media outlets, United says it is looking into what happened and has “zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”
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