Wednesday, a California federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by former Sacramento Kings announcer Grant Napear against Bonneville International Corp. following his firing from sports radio station KHTK in 2020 after tweeting “All lives matter.”
Per Law360, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd granted Bonneville’s motion to dismiss Napear’s lawsuit, saying that the broadcaster didn’t prove that he was fired because he is white, male, and Unitarian.
“Accordingly, because plaintiff has failed to allege facts that plausibly suggest any inference of discriminatory motive by defendant when it terminated him, the court will grant defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s religious, race and gender discrimination claims,” Judge Drozd said in his ruling.
In the midst of the social justice protests of 2020, former Kings player DeMarcus Cousins tweeted at Napear, asking him for his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement. Napear obliged, quote-tweeting Cousins and saying that he believes “All lives matter.”
“Hey!!!! How are you? Thought you forgot about me. Haven’t heard from you in years. ALL LIVES MATTER…EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!,” wrote Napear.
Hey!!!! How are you? Thought you forgot about me. Haven't heard from you in years. ALL LIVES MATTER…EVERY SINGLE ONE!!! https://t.co/DfzKl3w0jm
— Grant Napear (@GrantNapearshow) June 1, 2020
The term “All lives matter” came to prominence in opposition to Black Lives Matter and was heavily associated with conservative views that represented a rejection of the BLM movement, which itself emerged in response to police brutality and violence against Black Americans.
As other current and former Sacramento players started speaking up against Napear’s tweet, the reaction from his employers was swift. The broadcaster, who had called games since 1988, was placed on administrative leave before resigning from the Kings organization and being fired by KHTK.
Bonneville International, which is the broadcasting arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and owns the station, released a statement at the time regarding their decision.
We were saddened by the comments Grant Napear recently made on Twitter. While we appreciate Grant’s positive contributions to KHTK over the years, his recent comments about the Black Lives Matter movement do not reflect the views or values of Bonneville International Corporation. The timing of Grant’s tweet was particularly insensitive. After reviewing the matter carefully, we have made the difficult decision to part ways with Grant.
Bonneville’s purpose is to build up, connect, inform, and celebrate communities and families. In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death and the events of the last several days, it is crucial that we communicate the tremendous respect that we have for the black community and any other groups or individuals who have cause to feel marginalized. Bonneville remains committed to fostering calm and promoting human dignity in the face of unrest. We plead for all to work together for peace and mutual respect.
A few months later, Napear re-emerged, saying he wasn’t sorry for what he said before filing a wrongful termination suit against Bonneville for “wrongful termination, discrimination, and retaliation.” He also argued that his religious affiliation played a role in his termination, saying that as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church, he believes in “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
Bonneville argued that it had no reason to be aware of Napear’s religious affiliation and could not reasonably infer that his “All lives matter” tweet had any religious connotations. The judge seemed to agree, saying that Napear was not able to prove any instances where he was treated poorly because of his religion.
“At bottom, plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to support the inference that his termination was because of his religion as opposed to an obvious alternative explanation, such as that the substance and timing of plaintiff’s May 31, 2020 tweet were ‘particularly insensitive,’ or did ‘not reflect the views or values of [defendant],'” Judge Drozd said.
The order also said that the former announcer did not provide anything to prove that he had been discriminated against because of his gender or because he is white.
“In the court’s view, the allegations in the [complaint] regarding this claim are confusing, convoluted and generally out of step with plaintiff’s contention that he was terminated for expressing a political opinion, as opposed to for making a public statement that may have been unpopular and detrimental to defendant’s ‘good will, good name, or reputation,'” Judge Drozd wrote.
The judge did allow Napear to amend his claims and refile the lawsuit, saying that he could still try to refute Bonneville’s claim that it fired him because his tweet lacked sensitivity.
“We are disappointed by the district court’s decision, but we are confident that we can amend the complaint in a manner consistent with the district court’s order that will allow the lawsuit to move forward,” Napear’s lawyer Matthew J. Ruggles told Law360.