Rep. King steps into Olympiakos, players disputeby Alan Hahn
October 15, 2009
The NBA has been brought into a brewing controversy over breached contract allegations against the Greek basketball franchise Olympiakos, which spent the past weekend in the United States on a two-game exhibition tour against NBA teams.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) Wednesday sent a letter to commissioner David Stern looking for answers about the league's decision to do business with Olympiakos, which has skirted several U.S. federal court judgments for unpaid wages to former NBA player Chris Morris and his agent, Thomas McLaughlin.
"If we don't get a good answer from Stern and there is no satisfaction, then [the next step is] to work with other members of Congress and other committees, like the Judiciary Committee, and to work with the State Department to see if we can get some leverage," King told Newsday last night, "and also make it difficult for the NBA, if we have to, until we are sure they are doing all they can. Obviously if they're playing exhibition games with teams that owe former NBA players money, the NBA becomes an accessory here."
Olympiakos played the Spurs in San Antonio Friday and the Cavaliers in Cleveland Monday. The team returned to Greece Tuesday. The current president of Olympiakos, Panagiotis Angelopoulos, did not own the team when Morris was under contract. But McLaughlin says the team is still accountable.
Another agent, Gary Ebert, who has assisted McLaughlin with the legal process, claimed on Monday that he received a death threat from an unidentified man who warned him to "Leave Angelopoulos alone . . . [or] we will kill you."
McLaughlin is seeking $410,000 in unpaid fees and $1.1 million for Morris, who was cut in 2001 after a knee injury. Former Notre Dame star David Rivers is also planning a lawsuit to recoup $1.4 million he claims Olympiakos owes him from the 2001-02 season.
As of last night the NBA had no comment on the letter, which was obtained by Newsday and includes King asking Stern for information on "specifically what the NBA is doing to ensure the fair treatment of American players overseas and why international teams that have unpaid judgments are allowed to participate in goodwill tours here in the United States."
McLaughlin's uncle, John McLaughlin, is a political consultant for King, who is also a Notre Dame alumnus. Thomas McLaughlin was an assistant coach under Digger Phelps at Notre Dame. King, a Republican from Seaford, said his involvement is to bring political awareness to what he called "international robbery."
"I don't know what leverage we have as a country, but the NBA certainly has leverage," he said, "and the fact that former NBA players who are getting robbed and yet the NBA is involved in exhibition games with the same teams that are reneging on their contracts to American players is disgraceful."