LOS ANGELES (CN) - A Mexican-American announcer for The Lakers claims in court that his employers discriminated against him and cut his announcing duties in half when he complained.
Fernando Gonzalez sued The Los Angeles Lakers, Time Warner Cable - which has a 20-year deal to broadcast the NBA team's games - Lakers senior vice president of operations Tim Harris, and Time Warner Cable bosses Pablo Urquiza and Mark Shuken. Gonzalez demands $1 million in damages, in Superior Court.
Gonzalez, 53, has worked for the Lakers as a Spanish-language play-by-play announcer with co-host Pepe Mantilla since 1996, according to his complaint.
Among several grievances, Gonzalez claims he was not given a $6,000 commemorative ring after the Lakers were crowned NBA champions in 2000, did not receive season tickets, and was not allowed to travel with the team to away games. English-speaking announcers received all of those perks, Gonzalez claims.
Gonzalez says some of those issues were resolved after he complained, but that he had to pay $3,000 out of his own pocket for a commemorative ring.
On the rare occasions he was allowed to travel with the team, that he had to "beg" for his per diem expenses, he claims.
"For over seventeen years, plaintiff has never been allowed to conduct a one-on-one with Kobe Bryant," the 28-page lawsuit adds.
Gonzalez claims his situation deteriorated when in 2012 the Lakers entered into a $30 billion deal with Time Warner to launch two local television sports channels. Under the 20-year deal, Time Warner agreed to air Lakers games on a channel called TWC SportsNet, while airing Spanish-language content on the channel TWC Deportes
(Sports). As a result of the deal, Time Warner ended an agreement with CBS-owned KCAL-TV to air the games, the complaint states.
Gonzalez claims that he and Mantilla were overlooked when the Lakers hired announcers for TWC Deportes
. Francisco Pinto and Adrian Garcia Marquez took the play-by-play jobs, the lawsuit states.
"Pinto and Marquez are less than forty years of age and have little or no experience in basketball," the complaint states.
When Gonzalez complained that English-speaking broadcasters were receiving more lucrative deals, the Lakers retaliated by offering him a new contract that slashed his work and salary in half, he claims.
According to the complaint, Harris told Gonzalez that Time Warner would be handling the other half of his contract. But in the 2013-2014 season, the Lakers rejected a proposal that would have allowed Gonzalez to appear on a TWC regional network to analyze L.A. Sparks games, he says.
"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," the complaint states.
Gonzalez says his "fears became a reality" and that Time Warner failed to schedule him for up to 70 percent of dates he needed, costing him about $30,000 per year.
"At the time of the filing of this complaint, plaintiff continues to be employed as an official Spanish-language play-by-play radio announcer for The Lakers, and the employer defendants continue to harass, discriminate against, and retaliate against plaintiff because of his race, national origin, and age," the lawsuit states.
Gonzalez seeks damages for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, violation of the Tom Banes Civil Rights Act, fraudulent inducement and negligent misrepresentation.
He is represented by Lisa Maki.