Don King Sues America’s Veterans
I realize that it will come as a shock to nobody that Don King, boxing promoter extraordinare, is a man of questionable character. An ex-convict, King emerged as the pre-eminent fight promoter in the world, a feat that he loves to remind us could only happen in America. For that reason, King presents himself as a true patriot and devoted American who takes every opportunity to wave the stars and stripes in front of the television cameras.
Don King is so supportive and appreciative of the service to his country by its veterans of foreign wars that he has returned the favor by suing American Legion Post 299 – not once but twice.
The matter was first brought to my attention by Steve Lopez in his column published in the Los Angeles Times. The article so infuriated me that I got in touch with Lela Chick, the building manager of the Chino American Legion Post to learn more about the story. And it is quite a story.
The alleged infraction involves the screening on the TV at the Legion’s local hall, of two, 2008 fights promoted by King and distributed by his company’s pay-per-view operation.
The lawsuits, asking for $150,000 and $160,000, respectively, were filed in California by King’s company, KingVision Pay-Per-View, and local promoter, J&J Sports Productions.
The Complaints state that the American Legion post was required to get a commercial license from the rights holders (King and J&J) rather than the residential license provided pursuant to the residential account the legion hall had with its cable provider. According to Don King, this violation is due to the fact that the Legion Post was not airing the broadcast in a home living room but in their Legion Hall which King and company characterize as a commercial establishment.
Legion Post 299 is a social hall for veterans in the small, California town of Chino. The members are mostly veterans of Korea and Viet Nam who gain comfort from the company of others who have been through the shared war experience. Getting on in years now, many of the three hundred members of the Post are shuttled over to the Legion Hall by the nursing homes where they live so they can trade war stories with their buddies.
The Post maintains a small pub so they guys can buy an occasional beer, and a restaurant that tries to serve home cooked meals at very low prices ( a chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes and stuffing goes for $6.)
Of course, the guys love to watch the fights on TV. When there is a particularly good one, they pay the fee to the local cable company for the privilege of watching the pay-per-view boxing match. Raising the money is never easy as the Legion Post is not exactly brimming with money. To pay for the broadcast they typically take up a collection with many contributions coming in denominations as little as a quarter. While the Post always struggles to raise enough money to purchase the fight, they can manage to break even by opening the bar on fight night. There are a few more people in attendance than normal, so the Post can sell a few beers allowing them, on a good fight night, to cover the spread between what was contributed and the actual cost of ordering the fight on TV. Indeed, according to Lela Chick, they failed to break even on two of the last three fights (they fell short about $5 on each) but were able to manage a $6 profit on the third which went towards the next fight. As you can see, it’s a chore to pull together the $50 but well worth the effort considering how much the guys enjoy the event.
After being served with the lawsuits, Post 299 turned to a former Marine who is now a lawyer only to be told that the lawyer did not feel that he was competent in this area of the law. The Marine referred the matter to another attorney who charged the Legion Post $1600 to tell them that they had no chance of winning.
Not knowing what else to do, Don Avila, Legion Post 299 Commander, Ms. Chick and some additional members, drove over to South Pasadena, CA to meet with the lawyer representing Don King and company. The lawyer’s name is Thomas P. Riley. I tell you his name so that if you should run into him on the street, you can run as fast as you can in another direction. The group explained to the lawyer that they had no idea the Post had been breaking any rules – it was just the guys getting together to watch the fights. Avila promised that, if the Post was doing something wrong, they would certainly not do it again.
That was not good enough for Attorney Riley and his client, Don King. It seems Riley has brought a number of lawsuits against American Legion posts for the same thing so he had experience at squeezing a bunch of aging guys with no more money than they had an intent to harm anyone. Mr. Riley made it very clear that the vets were not going to be let off the legal hook.
Avila and friends were understandably frightened by the prospect of defending over $300,o00 worth of lawsuits. Not only could they never hope to pay a judgment should they fail to prevail in court, they couldn’t even afford a lawyer to represent them. They were convinced that the best they could do was agree to settle both lawsuits for a total of $20,000 – money they have no idea how to get their hands on.
Who in the world would treat a group of Korean and Viet Nam war veterans in this way?
Don “Only In America” King, that’s who.
Now, here’s the kicker. Wishing to be in compliance, the Legion Post contacted Direct TV to change their account status from residential to commercial. When the next fight rolled around, Ms. Chick contacted Direct to see what it would cost, under the new commercial status, to buy the fight. Imagine her surprise when she was told the cost would be $49.50, precisely what they had been paying under their residential license.
Don King and his associates had managed to “flim flam” these veterans into promising to pay $20,000 when there had never been any damages to begin with.
I’m a pretty big fight fan who rarely misses a good match on pay-per-view. So, it is with some pain that I make the following pledge: I swear before God that I will never watch a boxing match promoted by Don King until he (a) releases American Legion Post 299 from any obligation in this matter to him and his equally shameful partners, J&J Sports Productions, and (b) grants a free and continuous license to each and every American Legion Post in America for every single fight he ever promotes. And by that I mean that any American Legion Post would not even have to pay even the amount charged for watching a fight in one’s living room.
I would certainly hope that any veteran who reads this will join me.
I am not a veteran. However, I know a disgusting act when I see one and I refuse to give my money to anyone who would dare behave in this manner as they drape themselves in the American flag. For that reason, I hope all readers will not only join me in taking and following through on this pledge but will pass this along to everyone you know. If we do this, it won’t take long until King realizes that his despicable behavior is costing him money. That should motivate him to get some real patriotism going.
If you care to know how serious I am about this, I am taking on the representation of American Legion Post 299 pro bono, which is to say I am taking their case at no charge. I consider it a privilege to actually do something for these people and I hope you will too as you can do something beyond just voicing your support for these men and women. By agreeing to swear off Don King fights, and to make sure everyone you know does the same until this is straightened out, and not only for Post 299 but for every American Legion Post threatened by this outrageous behavior, you will have paid more than lip service to the notion of supporting the troops.
I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity.