Albany declines to renew Richardson's contract

Updated: April 4, 2007, 3:50 PM ET
Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Albany Patroons didn't renew Micheal Ray Richardson's coaching contract Wednesday following his suspension for alleged anti-gay and anti-Semitic remarks.

"Now he's labeled the rest of his life as anti-Semitic, and he's not. He's got two kids who are being raised Jewish. He's got an ex-wife he has a good relationship with who is Jewish."
-- John Aretakis, lawyer for Micheal Ray Richardson

The former NBA player was suspended for the team's last two Continental Basketball Association playoff games on March 28, a day after he told the Times Union of Albany that he had "big-time Jew lawyers'' working for him. The coach yelled at hecklers during the first playoff game, using a profanity and gay slur.

"We had spoken prior to all this hoopla. He had been negotiating with other teams," Patroons general manager James Coyne said Wednesday. "We pretty much agreed earlier on he wouldn't be coming back to the CBA."

However, Richardson's lawyer said the suspension has put his client's entire career in jeopardy, including other coaching opportunities.

"Now all the sudden he gets his contract canceled," attorney John Aretakis said.

Richardson had been expected to coach for Coyne in the upcoming U.S. Basketball League season that starts in a few weeks, and that's not happening either, he said.

"Now he's labeled the rest of his life as anti-Semitic, and he's not," Aretakis said. "He's got two kids who are being raised Jewish. He's got an ex-wife he has a good relationship with who is Jewish."

Richardson made the comments in a newspaper interview last week.

"I've got big-time lawyers. I've got big-time Jew lawyers," Richardson was quoted as saying.

"They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean? Which I think is great," Richardson told the Albany Times Union.

"I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish [people]. It's not a knock, but they are some crafty people."

The team issued an apology, with Patroons owner and CBA chairman Ben Fernandez saying the league will not tolerate bigots.

Richardson said he apologized to the hecklers after the game and to anyone who was offended by his other quoted remarks.

"I am not anti-Semitic," he said. "I was giving compliments. It's like saying the NBA is 85 percent black."

Aretakis drafted a lawsuit he said he'll file Friday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan against the Hearst Corp. and Times Union sports columnist Brian Ettkin, claiming defamation and slander. He said Richardson's epithet to the hecklers, while a poor choice of words, is commonly used by many men who, like Richardson, are not homophobic.

Times Union managing editor Mary Fran Gleason declined to comment.

Richardson was the fourth overall pick in the 1978 draft. He joined the NBA out of Montana and played eight seasons with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets.

His NBA career ended because of drug use in 1986, when commissioner David Stern banned Richardson for life after he violated the league's drug policy three times. He said Wednesday he talked with Stern and things are all right with the off-season work he does for the NBA as a community ambassador and for the Knicks.

Richardson began his comeback in 1988, joining the ranks of ex-NBA players in European leagues. His right to play in the NBA was restored that year but he stayed in Italy, where he was a leading scorer and fan favorite.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press