The saga of the Big 3 continues to get weirder and weirder. The 3-on-3 basketball league has already seen tons of offseason drama this year, especially around the March firing of commissioner Roger Mason Jr. (with the league, as per TMZ, claiming improper conduct from Mason in relation to Qatari investors Ayman Sabi and Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, who hadn’t delivered on the millions they promised the league itself, and Mason claiming he was fired as retaliation for legal claims against the league, including that it was a “hostile and racist” workplace and that co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz “repeatedly referred to black athletes as ‘rich n——‘”).
That then led to the appointment of Clyde Drexler as commissioner, and to the league and co-founder Ice Cube taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times in April asking U.S. president Donald Trump to side with them in a legal battle with the Qatari investors (and promoting their summer schedule of games while they were at it). And now, that legal battle has produced one of the strangest headlines you’ll ever see (update: and a response from the other side, as you’ll see below).
Truly one of the great Mad Libs headlines of 2018 pic.twitter.com/iZtzAZL1x7
— Robert Silverman (@BobSaietta) May 9, 2018
It helps that the Daily Mail can write such long headlines. But the story lives up to the billing! It’s based on new court documents filed Tuesday as part of a lawsuit the league launched last month against multiple Qatari investors, including Sabi and Al-Rumaihi. The league is somehow suing for up to $1.2 billion in a dispute over the Qataris only paying $7.5 million of the $20.5 million they allegedly promised. And those documents have a whole lot of political allegations:
In a declaration filed with his lawsuit, lodged in court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Kwatinetz claims that al Rumaihi saw an opportunity when he found out Kwatinetz was ‘friends’ with Trump’s former aide Bannon.
…Kwatinetz claims al Rumaihi asked him to set up a meeting with Bannon so that the Qatari could ‘convey a message from the Qatari Government to Steve Bannon’.
‘Mr. Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Steven Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,’ Kwatinetz said.
Kwatinetz said in the court document that he was ‘appalled’ at the idea of ‘a bribe of any kind’, declined the offer immediately and did not tell Bannon about it.
The court document says: ‘Mr. Al-Rumahi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?”
Flynn, the former national security advisor, pled guilty to lying to the FBI back in December. It’s unclear what, if any, contacts he had with the Qatari investors in question here, and a claim like this in a lawsuit that’s really just about whether or not these investors lived up to any obligations they had to the Big 3 may not lead to much of anything. The Bannon comments may lead to even less, as there was no contact actually made with Bannon through Kwatinetz.
Update: The investment company involved, Sport Trinity, which says they’re “the largest investor in Big3 basketball and the object of Jeff Kwatinetz’s claims,” sent the following statement:
“Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction. Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league. Mr. Kwatinetz’s commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless.”
Sport Trinity also claims that they’re still an investor in the Big 3, citing part of a previously filed complaint:
“Under Delaware law (the choice of law in the UPA and the LLC Agreement), a party’s membership interest is not eliminated or even reduced as a result of alleged withholding of a capital contribution unless the written agreement explicitly provides for such a remedy. See 6 Del. Code Ann. § 18-502. Thus, the law is exactly opposite of what BIG3 contends; Sport Trinity’s membership interests remain wholly intact because the LLC Agreement does not explicitly provide otherwise.”
And they note that Mason Jr. continues to pursue his claims against the Big 3, but in arbitration in New York rather than in a lawsuit in Delaware.
It’s interesting to have this come out in a week where companies like AT&T are under scrutiny for their payments to those connected to the Trump administration (in their specific case, they paid $200,000 to a consulting firm run by Trump’s personal lawyer while their proposed merger with Time Warner was under federal scrutiny). And allegations that Qatari investors in the Big 3 were trying to bribe Trump’s then-chief strategist last summer definitely are worth a bit of talk.
For the moment at least, the Big 3 looks set for another summer of play, which will actually be televised live this time around. And they’re probably getting some decent publicity from these headlines involving everyone from Qatar to Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn. We’ll see if there’s further weird news to come from this league, or if this particular headline bingo card is the last one from them for a while. At any rate, they’ve given us some remarkable reading material.