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Orange County Register (California)
The Spanish radio voice of the Lakers has filed a lawsuit against the team and its broadcast partner, TimeWarner Cable, that alleges 17 years of discrimination based on race and age.
Fernando Gonzalez, a Mexican American who has worked for the Lakers since 1996 alongside partner Pepe Mantilla, is seeking $1 million in damages for discrimination claims that include not receiving the same in-arena recognition as English broadcasters and never being granted a one-on-one interview with star Kobe Bryant, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court and first obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Additionally, the suit alleges that Gonzalez, 53, was passed over for a more lucrative position in 2011 when the Lakers entered a 20-year, $3 billion partnership with TWC, establishing English and Spanish television homes for the team. Adrian Marquez and Francisco Pinto were hired to be the on-air team on TWC Deportes, although the pair "are less than forty years of age and have little or no experience in basketball."
The advent of TWC Deportes "signaled the Lakers' intention to begin putting (Gonzalez) out to pasture," the lawsuit states.
After cutting Gonzalez's workload in half, network higher-ups did not give Gonzalez additional, promised on-air assignments to negate the loss in compensation, according to the lawsuit. As a result, the suit claims, Gonzalez lost roughly $30,000 in earnings.
Tim Harris, the Lakers' senior vice president for business operations and Gonzalez's immediate supervisor, was named in the suit, as were Pablo Urquiza, TWC Vice President of Programming, and Mark Shuken, senior vice president and general manager for TWC Sports Regional Networks.
The suit alleges a string of instances in which the Spanish broadcast team of Gonzalez and Mantilla was treated differently from the English broadcast team, including not traveling to road games.
After the Lakers won the 2000 NBA championship, the suit alleges, Gonzalez and Mantilla were told they would have to pay $3,000 for their commemorative championship rings, while other employees received the rings for free. According to the lawsuit, the Spanish broadcasters were eventually refunded their money after Gonzalez complained to announcer Chick Hearn.
The Lakers have not responded to the allegations.