Drake and LeBron James are facing a new $10 million lawsuit over the underlying rights to an upcoming documentary they’re producing called Black Ice, about the history of Black players in professional ice hockey.
In a complaint filed Monday in Manhattan court, longtime NBA players union exec Billy Hunter said he owns the exclusive film rights to a 2004 book that forms the basis for the soon-to-be-released documentary – but that he wasn’t involved in the production of the film.
“While the defendants … are internationally known and renowned in their respective fields of basketball and music, it does not afford them the right to steal another’s intellectual property,” Hunter wrote. “Yet that is exactly what occurred.”
Directed by Canadian filmmaker Hubert Davis, Black Ice is set to premiere this weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival, with Drake and LeBron as executive producers. The festival describes the film as an “incisive, urgent documentary” that “examines the history of anti-Black racism in hockey,” ranging from “segregated leagues of the 19th century to professional leagues today.”
One aspect of the film is the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, a little-known league that operated in coastal Canada during the early decades of the 20th century. Those portions are based on Darril Fosty and George Fosty‘s 2004 non-fiction book of the same name, which recounts the “lost history” of the CHL.
In his lawsuit, Hunter says he paid the Fostys $10,000 in 2019 for an exclusive option to the film rights to the book, and then another $250,000 in February to exercise that option. Despite those clear contractual agreements, Hunter claims the Fostys then reached a separate deal with the producers of Black Ice.
“Not content having received $265,000 from Plaintiff, the defendant authors of the property entered into another agreement to sell the very same rights already owned and controlled by Plaintiff,” his lawyers wrote. When confronted, Hunter says the authors claimed that a “documentary” was different than a “film,” but Hunter called that argument “absurd and made in bad faith.”
Naming the Fostys as defendants, Hunter says the two are liable for “all damages stemming from their wrongful double-sale of the rights plaintiff owns in the property.”
As for LeBron and Drake, Hunter says the two superstars and others involved in the documentary knew about his pre-existing rights to the book but proceeded with their film anyway. According to the lawsuit, once the producers learned of the earlier rights deal, they attempted to convince Hunter to sell his rights to the book. But Hunter says he “unequivocally stated that this was a passion project of his, and he had no interest in selling his exclusive option or any portion of his rights.”
Reps for Drake and LeBron did not immediately return requests for comment on Tuesday.
Read the entire lawsuit here: