Larry McGuinness is pictured front and center with the ladies of McGuinness & Gonzalez law firm in Miami, Florida. On Monday, McGuinness filed a class-action lawsuit on the San Antonio Spurs for allegedly violating Florida's deceptive and fair trade practices law in November 2012 when Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sat out big-name players from the nationally-aired Spurs Vs. Heat game at American Airlines Arena.
Miami Heat fan Larry McGuinness blames the San Antonio Spurs for ruining his night last Nov. 29. He only chuckles when asked if he at least had fun at the game. Probably not.
McGuinness, a lawyer based in Miami, filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday against the Spurs for alleging the team violated Florida’s deceptive and fair trade practices law when head coach Gregg Popovich sent Spurs starters Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green home for some much needed rest before the team's match up against the Heat.
The decision prompted NBA Commissioner David Stern to slap the Spurs with a heavy $250K fine and initiate conversation amongst fans and throughout the league about exactly how much say a head coach has in running his team the way he sees fit. According to ESPN.com, McGuinness states Popovich “intentionally and surreptitiously” sent their marquee players home without informing the NBA or the Heat. He adds that he and other fans who attended the game that evening “suffered economic damages.”
During an interview with the Current, McGuinness, who has been practicing law for 23 years and earned his degree from Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, explained exactly what he is looking for in compensation from the Spurs and why he is only filing the lawsuit now, almost two months after the game in question.
So, where were you sitting at the game? You have good seats?
We were at the bottom part of the bowl – about 18 or 20 rows up.
Are you a season ticket holder?
No. I used to be, but what I found out is that I could never go see all the games and I was giving away tickets. So, I decided to go see the games I thought would be good games to see. One of them was the Spurs.
So, you’re not like most NBA fans who think the Spurs are boring?
(Laughs) I love watching the Spurs. That’s one of the teams for the last few years that I’ve made sure I try to see. I like the way they play, even though some people might think they are a little on the boring side. I don’t think so. I think they play good basketball.
What were your initial thoughts when you found out four of the five Spurs starters were not going to play in the game and were actually sent back home?
I was disappointed. Walking into American Airlines Arena, a lot of people going in with us were making comments about it and certainly talking about it at halftime. The folks sitting around us were talking about it. They wanted to see the stars. It’s a star-driven league. The marquee players are the ones that bring people into the arena. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t there.
This game was almost two months ago. Why are you filing this lawsuit now?
Well, I thought somebody would’ve done it before I did. I was surprised nobody had done anything about it. It was stuck in the back of my mind. It was something that needed to be done at least from a fan’s perspective. [NBA] Commissioner [David] Stern did what he needed to do, which he was entitled to, but this is more about the fans.
Did you agree with Stern’s decision?
I thought it was a just fine. I thought it was a warning shot to all the NBA teams. This is not something that Stern is going to tolerate. Even Coach Popovich agreed. He said if he was in the stands with his kids, he would’ve been disappointed that the starters weren’t there.
Talk about the deceptive and fair trade law and how it applies to this specific case.
I used this analogy before, but if you go to a really good steakhouse and order a very expensive porterhouse for $65, this would be like them bringing out a cube steak. It’s not what you ordered. You didn’t know you were going to get it and it wasn’t in any of the footnotes on the menu. That’s really the nature of the unfair deceptive trade practices act that we see here. You’re expecting one thing and you get something totally different.
Is there a precedent for a lawsuit like this?
I haven’t seen anything. I did some checking and talked to some legal scholars, but they haven’t seen anything either.
What kind of compensation are you looking for from the Spurs? Do you just want the difference between what you paid for your two tickets and what you would’ve paid if the Heat were playing, say, the Charlotte Bobcats?
That would be one component. Another would be for those folks who are out a bit more. For example, I just talked to someone who flew down from South Carolina with nine of his family members, specifically to see this game because they were huge Spurs fans. Needless to say, he and his family were very disappointed. They didn’t see the stars they had come so far to see.
If you win your case, aren’t you worried more NBA teams will be sued for resting their players?
I don’t have a problem per se with resting players. I do have a problem though when you rest the entire starting lineup and you don’t notify someone about that. I don’t blame the Heat or the NBA because they didn’t know about it. I don’t think if I went down to the Spurs bench they would’ve give me a refund. Assuming there is any success in this lawsuit, everything is being donated to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.
Did you have a good time at the game, at least?
The Heat only won by five points, 105-100. You have to admit it was a good game.
Well, I think if you watch the Heat play, they play to the level of competition that is put before them. It’s one thing if you’re playing the All-Stars that should’ve been there. It’s another thing if you play players who were supposed to be coming off the bench.