Eric Murdock is a former NBA player
Eric Murdock is a former NBA player

United Airlines sued by former athlete for ‘race baiting’

Retired basketball player says political climate in US ‘encourages people to be the worst versions of themselves’

Helen Coffey
Monday 03 December 2018 14:55
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A retired professional basketball player is suing United Airlines after an encounter with a “race baiting” flight attendant.

Eric Murdock, formerly a point guard for Utah Jazz, was flying from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Newark, New Jersey on United flight 1537 in July 2018 when the incident occurred.

The NBA star, who is black, asked to sit in the emergency exit row behind his assigned seat with his son, he claims in a lawsuit, which he filed along with another passenger.

However, the flight attendant, referred to as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit, refused, saying those seats cost a “premium” price.

A passenger who had bought a premium seat allegedly boarded just before take-off and offered to trade places with Murdock.

However, the “rude and dismissive” attendant, who was white, said the row had to remain empty and told Murdock he had to return to his original seat.

Just half an hour later, “Jane Doe” returned with a white female passenger, who she allowed to sit in the exit row, according to the lawsuit. The flight attendant refused to explain why the other passenger was allowed to sit there when Murdock was not.

At this point another passenger, Brenda Williams, became involved. Ms Williams, who did not know Murdock prior to the flight, asked Jane Doe why she was being rude to him.

The flight attendant allegedly responded by screaming it was none of her business and trying to grab Ms Williams’ phone from out of her hands as she believed her to be filming the incident.

Later in the flight when serving refreshments, Jane Doe allegedly asked Murdock if he was going to “boycott the drinks”; he “did not respond to the obvious race baiting,” according to the lawsuit.

Both Murdock and Ms Williams were escorted off the plane by security when the flight landed, before being questioned by TSA guards.

They were allowed to leave without charges, but claim the “unjustifiable” removal was humiliating in the $10m Brooklyn Federal Court discrimination lawsuit.

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America’s current political climate “encourages people to be the worst versions of themselves”, Murdock said in a statement.

A United Airlines spokesperson told the New York Post the airline had “zero tolerance” for discrimination and would be investigating Murdock’s allegations.

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