Turning Stone Casino, on behalf of the Oneida Nation, issued a two-sentence statement Friday claiming that the $16 million lawsuit filed by boxing great Joe Frazier had no merit.
“This came as a surprise to the Oneida Nation, especially after all the Turning Stone casino resort has done for the Frazier family,” said Mark Emery, the casino’s director of media relations. “The Nation is confident the suit is without merit and continues to analyze it.”
Emery admitted that Turning Stone was caught by surprise when Frazier filed the lawsuit. Frazier claimed that promoters for the Jacqui Frazier-Lyde bout last June with Laila Ali used his image without permission to publicize his daughter.
“It’s a curious situation since Frazier’s son-in-law Peter Lyde promoted the fight,” Emery said. “Lyde works for a group called Soreal Community. This was the third fight that we booked Frazier’s daughter and there never was any problem. For all Turning Stone had done for Frazier, it’s hard to believe he would do this.”
Emery admitted that the lawsuit could affect the casino’s plans for building another casino resort in the Catskill Mountains.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the Catskills,” Emery said. “We’re crunching the numbers. I am not at liberty to comment at all about the lawsuit, but obviously it would not help the situation. However, we are confident the suit has no merit.”
Emery said that $9 million from the $16 million sought by Frazier in the suit was for punitive damages. The remaining $7 million was for compensatory damages.”
Frazier’s attorney, H. Todd Bullard, was quoted in a Syracuse (N.Y.) newspaper as expressing outrage over the promotion of the bout.
“Let’s face it, they promoted this as the next coming of the Ali-Frazier fights, which were classics,” Bullard said.
Frazier also sued Oneida representative Ray Halbritter, casino marketing manager Dwayne Spitzer and Edward Brophy, boxing promoter and executive director of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.
The lawsuit claims that Frazier has never allowed anyone to use his likeness to promote commercial gambling and that the casino and tribe “knowingly, intentionally, maliciously and unjustly profited from their improper commercial advertising.”
The suit included photos showing gaming tables with Joe Frazier’s 1971 boxing picture superimposed behind a photo of his daughter.
Spitzer had no comment on the lawsuit, other than to say that all statement would be handled through the public relations department.
Turning Stone has another boxing card slated for Mar. 1, featuring an IBC America’s Junior Welterweight title fight between Lemuel Nelson and Frank Houghtaling. Nelson is managed by world light-heavyweight champ Roy Jones Jr.