Two former Nets ball boys have sued the team alleging that they lost their job after they joined in protests against racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.
Juwan Williams and Edward Bolden Jr., both black, make the claim in a suit filed in federal court in Brooklyn. They allege that their supervisor, Joe Cuomo, Director of Equipment and Travel for the Nets, specifically stopped them from discussing racial justice issues with the players as part of his opposition to the protests.
“Cuomo specifically prohibited Bolden and Williams from speaking to any Nets players regarding ongoing racial inequities in the nation,” lawyers for the two men wrote in the suit filed Monday.
The federal lawsuit also contends that Cuomo was involved in an effort to “blacklist” them throughout the NBA.
A spokesperson for the Nets said the terminations were justified.
“Our company takes pride in the fact that our employees reflect the diverse community that we serve, including within the seasonal part-time team attendant positions in which the plaintiffs were previously employed,” said the spokesman. “All employment decisions are carefully and thoughtfully evaluated and we are entirely comfortable with the employment decision taken with respect to the plaintiffs.”
Williams and Bolden Jr. say that the team has a double standard permitting players, but not lower salaried employees, from participating in racial justice protests. Several Nets on the team at the time, including Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, said they had protested in Brooklyn and elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, the players’ voices on these issues were tolerated because of the power they held on the Nets, but Plaintiffs’ voices were not,” the lawsuit reads.
At the time, the team also issued a statement in support of the protests, and in December 2020, the Joe and Clara Wu Tsai Foundation established a $50 million Social Justice Fund.
The Nets use nine “attendants” as ball boys. They are hired on a seasonal basis.
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