Two former camera operators for The Tonight Show filed a lawsuit against Questlove and NBC, claiming they were fired because they’re white.
Kurt Decker and Michael Cimino said in the lawsuit that they and Roots bassist Mark Kelley received “an unsolicited racist and misogynist text message from a Tonight Show stagehand” last June. They reported the message to Keith McPhee, a manager of Roots, and Byron King, a technical production manager at NBC. They said they were suspended immediately, but Kelley, who is African-American, wasn’t.
The lawsuit also alleges that Questlove wanted all of the Caucasian employees involved fired, but not Kelley.
“The bottom line is that discrimination is discrimination, no matter your ethnicity, race or creed,” Richard Roth, a lawyer who is representing both Decer and Cimino, said.
NBC said the company is “committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. We have strong policies in place that protect against discrimination in any form. The decision about these plaintiffs was the company’s alone.”
“Racism is REAL and exists throughout the world and for these gentlemen to claim victim is not only disrespectful to Questlove and his band mates, but to all that truly endure racism on a daily basis,” a spokesperson for Questlove said. “As NBC already stated, the decisions made regarding these employees were made by NBC, alone.”
Decker and Cimino are seeking $1 million in damages.
This isn’t the first time that a reverse racism lawsuit has been filed. Last March, a group of white employees filed a lawsuit against Sean “Diddy” Combs’ music channel Revolt TV after Combs allegedly fired them because they weren’t young or black.
Douglas Goodstein and four other white producers worked on Revolt’s urban talk-radio program, “The Breakfast Club.” They claim that they were treated worse than employees who were younger and African-American.
According to the lawsuit, Executive Vice President Val Boreland “was always rude, condescending and dismissive towards the team . . . Ms. Boreland, however, treated the African-American staff in a much friendlier and respectful manner.”
The lawsuit also claims that executives didn’t discipline African-American employees who came to work high or drunk.
Producer Todd Baker complained that show’s guests were constantly late and production manager Cherisse McKenzie allegedly said, “he just did not understand the ‘culture’ of the show’s guests and on-air personalities.”
The team was fired in December 2014 and replaced with inexperienced black employees, according to the lawsuit.
“Racism directed at anyone is unacceptable,” said Matthew Blit, an attorney for the producers.