May 27, 2014 8:13pm PT by Debbie Emery
Radio Announcer Sues L.A. Lakers, Time Warner Cable for $1 Million
Time Warner Cable and the Los Angeles Lakers have been jointly named in a lawsuit by a Spanish-language radio announcer claiming he has been racially discriminated against.
Fernando Gonzalez is suing the team and the cable company for $1 million in the complaint that was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday.
Tim Harris, Lakers senior vp of operations; Pablo Urquiza, TWC programming vice president; and Mark Shuken, general manager for TWC Sports Regional Networks, are also named in the lawsuit.
Read the full complaint here.
Mexican-American Gonzalez, 53, has worked for the Lakers for 18 years after being hired in 1996 as a Spanish language play-by-play announcer.
Born in Mexico, he is now an American citizen, however he claims that the team has always treated him differently to his "Anglo-American counterparts in terms of wages, hours and terms of conditions of employment," according to the legal documents, which states that neither Gonzalez nor his co-broadcaster, Pepe Mantilla, were usually mentioned in announcements of broadcasters at the beginning of games on the big screen.
The lawsuit also states that when the Lakers won the NBA championship in 2000, "almost all" the staff members and broadcasters received a $6,000 commemorative ring, but Gonzalez and Mantilla were told they had to pay $3,000 each for the memorabilia.
Other discrimination claims include not being permitted to bring spouses into the "family room," not receiving season tickets or valet parking (until 2003), and not being invited to the NBA annual meetings in New York or New Jersey. Gonzalez claims that after 17 years of requests, he was still not permitted to cover "away" games or allowed to travel with the team, apart from "very rare circumstances."
In addition, "for over 17 years, Plaintiff has never been allowed to cover a one-on-one interview with Kobe Bryant," according to the lawsuit.
The complaint goes on to state that in 2011, after the Lakers and Time Warner Cable signed a 20-year, $3 billion deal launching two new TWC Sports Regional Networks -- and although radio broadcasting was not directly affected -- two broadcasters were hired by the new sports network TWC Deportes for Spanish-language play-by-play television broadcasting who are "less than 40 years old and with no experience in basketball."
Gonzalez claims that in 2012, the team "retaliated" against him for speaking up against discrimination by offering a "new contract with only half the work" and "half the compensation" that he had previously. The new contract runs through September 30, 2015. Harris stated that because of the new partnership with TWC, it would be responsible for "the other half" of his compensation provided that he work the requisite number of days on television shows broadcast by TWC, according to the lawsuit.
It adds that Harris "then guaranteed that TWC would not take any action adversely affecting Plaintiff’s overall compensation," however, in June 2013, the Lakers refused to allow him to act as an analyst for the Los Angeles Sparks games broadcast on the TWC regional network.
"The Lakers' unconscionable refusal constituted additional retaliation against Plaintiff for the exercise of his protected rights, and signaled the Lakers' intention to begin putting Plaintiff out to pasture," claims the lawsuit.
"Accordingly, during the 2013-2014 season, Plaintiff's fears became a reality: TWC failed and refused to schedule Plaintiff for more than 60 percent to 70 percent of the requisite number of dates. Plaintiff’s lost income would amount to approximately $30,000 annually."
The lawsuit is claiming that Gonzalez is entitled to "past and future lost wages, benefits and other perquisites of employment." It also claims that has has suffered "general and special damages, including severe and profound pain and emotional distress, anxiety and depression, and past and future lost wages and benefits."
Gonzalez is represented by Lisa L. Maki and Allison M. Schulman of the Law Offices of Lisa L. Maki.