Roger Mason Jr. did not go quietly into the night after being fired as commissioner of the Big3 basketball league for alleged corruption. The former NBA player and high-ranking official with that league¡¯s union claimed Monday that a ¡°hostile and racist¡± environment existed at the three-on-three basketball league, which debuted last year as the brainchild of actor/rapper Ice Cube.
In a statement provided to The Washington Post, Mason said he was fired in?retaliation for accusing the Big3, and in particular co-founder?Jeff Kwatinetz, of breaching his?employment agreement. Mason added that ¡°a?former employee of BIG3¡å recently told him that?Kwatinetz, an?entertainment industry executive, ¡°has repeatedly referred to black athletes as ¡®rich n¡ª¡ª-.¡¯ ¡±
According to TMZ Sports, which said it obtained a letter sent to players and league employees, Mason was fired for corrupt practices, following an investigation into his ties to a pair of Qatari investors in the league,?Ayman Sabi and Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, who were alleged to have withheld millions of dollars from the Big3.?When the Big3 sued the two men, Mason allegedly refused to work on the league¡¯s behalf in the matter.
The Qataris were said to have bestowed gifts and other benefits on a few Big3 officials, per the website, with the implication that Mason¡¯s integrity had been compromised. Ice Cube is reportedly set to step in as the league¡¯s commissioner until a permanent replacement is found.
¡°I am disappointed at the conduct of Ice Cube and other executives of Big3 in leveling these desperate manufactured claims against me,¡± Mason said. He added that?Kwatinetz ¡°has been engaged in a malicious, defamatory campaign of disparaging me in an attempt to prevent me from the performance of contractual duties and responsibilities.¡±
A spokesman for the Big3?told?The Post that the league would not have ¡°any comment at this time.¡±
A D.C.-area native who starred at Good Counsel High and the University of Virginia, Mason played for 10 years in the NBA, including three with the Wizards. The 37-year-old former shooting guard had been?deputy executive director of the NBA Players Association, where he helped?negotiate that league¡¯s collective bargaining agreement, before joining the Big3 as its commissioner.
¡°As a fan, I¡¯m just excited to see the guys that I know play at a competitive, high level,¡± Ice Cube said at a January 2017 news conference unveiling the league. ¡°I¡¯m just happy I have the right people and partners to be able to provide the stage for them.¡±
¡°Although it¡¯s been a lot of fun, there hasn¡¯t been a lot of sleep,¡± Mason said last year of his experience as commissioner (via uvamagazine.org). ¡°Starting from scratch and really building out with a small infrastructure, it¡¯s been anything you can imagine. We¡¯ve been all hands on deck ¡ª whether that was putting together presentations for the sponsors or reaching out to the players to give them a vision of what this league would look like.¡±
The news about Mason overshadowed the Big3¡¯s?announcement Monday of the schedule for its second season, which will feature some notable new names. Former NBA stars such as?Amar¡¯e Stoudemire, Metta World Peace and Baron Davis are joining the league, which starts a 10-week season in June and is set to play its games in?Houston, Chicago, Oakland, Detroit, Miami, Toronto, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas and?New York.
Read more from The Post: