Hoops star Lebron James is off the hook in a suit over the rights to “Black Ice” — a film about a segregated hockey league for black players in Canada, court papers show.
Billy Hunter — former head of the NBA Players Association and a former prosecutor — filed a $10 million lawsuit in September against the Los Angeles Lakers’ great, rappers Drake and Future and others over the documentary, claiming he holds the exclusive rights for any movie about the Colored Hockey League.
But on Thursday, Hunter dropped claims against the four-time NBA champion and MVP and James’ business partner Maverick Carter.
The suit will continue against Drake, Future and the other defendants — and Hunter can bring claims against James and Carter in the future if necessary, Hunter’s lawyer Larry Hutcher said.
“At this stage of the litigation before there was any discovery conducted we agreed to voluntarily dismiss these parties without prejudice,” Hutcher said in a statement. “If the discovery that we conduct shows that they were involved we will reinstitute our claims.”
Hutcher said claims were dropped against James and his business partner since both have said they didn’t take part in the “negotiation or sale of the property.”
“We elected to let them out at this time with the understanding that if discovery shows that they were involved we will bring them back into the suit,” Hutcher said. “We have no desire to sue people that did not act in violation of our clients’ rights.”
In his suit, Hunter alleged the high-profile defendants went behind his back to make a deal with the authors of the critically acclaimed book on which the documentary is based –“Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895 to 1925.”
Hunter claims he paid book authors George and Darril Fosty $265,000 for the movie rights.
He asserts the option agreement was signed March 25, 2019, and that he put down $10,000 at the time for it, until he later paid $250,000 in February 2022 to hold “exclusive worldwide rights” to any “audiovisual” adaptation of the story.
Then in October 2020, Hunter was called by George Fosty, who told him he was approached by other producers working with James about making the documentary.
Hunter said at the time, he refused to sell the rights to his passion project. And through his lawyer, Hunter sent a breach-of-contract letter to the defendants on Nov. 1, 2021, after finding out about the movie in the Canadian press.
Lebron’s camp then offered to pay the Fostys $100,000 and 3% of the movie’s budget “to induce the authors to breach their agreement with” Hunter, his suit alleged.
Hunter also sued the Fostys and their publishing company.
“Black Ice” was directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hubert Davis and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
James and Carter’s lawyers didn’t immediately return a request for comment.