In an order today, Judge Batts dismissed without prejudice the disability discrimination complaint of ten-year NBA veteran Cuttino Mobley, who claimed that the Knicks, in order to save money on the NBA’s “luxury tax,” forced him to retire by sending him to doctors the Knicks knew would not clear him to play. Mobley has a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or “HCM,” which can lead to sudden heart failure. Judge Batts concluded Mobley hadn’t sufficiently alleged he was qualified to play pro basketball:
Plaintiff here has failed to allege sufficiently that he had the requisite qualifications and could perform satisfactorily in his job with the Knicks. Plaintiff has only alleged facts to show that he was qualified in the past and does not offer any evidence to discredit the opinions of the Knicks’ doctors at the time they evaluated him . . . . Here, the uniqueness of a career as a professional basketball player and the associated extreme physical demands require Plaintiff to allege facts specific to his present qualification in those circumstances. Plaintiff has failed to do so. Mobley does not allege that any doctors cleared him to play professional basketball after he joined the Knicks, nor does he offer any medical evidence to support his conclusory allegations that HCM improves with age and that he was physically fit to play despite his adverse medical assessments . . . . Plaintiff next contends that even if he could not play professional basketball without accommodation, it would have been possible to accommodate his disability by implanting a defibrillator in his heart to shock him back to life were it to stop. He alleges that this was a reasonable accommodation that was not afforded. While reasonable accommodation is generally required, N. Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 9, § 466.11(g) (2), Admin. Code of the City of N.Y. § 8-107(15) (a), NYSHRL states that “reasonable accommodation is not required where the disability or the accommodation itself poses a direct threat.” . . . . Mobley has not alleged facts sufficient to show that his HCM did not pose a direct threat and that he was therefore entitled to reasonable accommodation. Moreover, Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to show it would have been reasonable for the Knicks to accommodate him with a defibrillator.
Judge Batts’ decision was without prejudice to Mobley amending his complaint.