Urban Edge Network, a broadcast entity that has televised HBCU sporting events and programming, has filed a $250 million lawsuit against the SWAC for what it calls “unfair business practices” regarding interference with media rights.
The 30-page lawsuit filed last Friday in the Northern District of Texas Dallas Division court alleges Webber Marketing and Consulting, the SWAC and league commissioner Charles McClelland engaged in what was described as tortious interference by the conference.
Urban Edge Network, which owns and operates HBCU League Pass among other Black college-specific entities, alleged the SWAC and its partners participated in what was called a “recession of contract, unfair business practices in violation of Texas business and commerce code.
The lawsuit claims that Urban Edge Network expected to earn millions in revenue from its corporate sponsorships that had shown an interest in expanding into the HBCU marketplace before Webber Marketing and Consulting allegedly conspired to prevent the network from competing with the SWAC for media revenues.
“The Defendants made a conscious decision, agreed, and conspired to put UEN out of business to prevent UEN from competing with Defendants for revenues that could be derived through the exercise of media, marketing, advertising and broadcasting rights including on UEN’s streaming channel which it used to broadcast SWAC and other conference games,” the lawsuit states.
Urban Edge Network further alleges that the SWAC and Webber Marketing — at the direction of Charles McClelland — “formulated a scheme to defame, injure and interfere with its contracts” by informing business partners that “SWAC conference games cannot be streamed or broadcasted on a national basis outside of the conference agreements,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims that the SWAC’s bylaws indicated that the league didn’t own exclusive rights. Urban Edge Network, according to the lawsuit, previously negotiated a deal with Grambling State.
But McClelland allegedly informed a Pepsi representative that Urban Edge Network did not have a contract with Grambling or another SWAC school because the conference only maintained exclusive rights to league contests.
Urban Edge Network also claimed that action by the SWAC led to companies not wanting to align with the network on the basis of purported comments by McClelland characterizing the entity as “a bunch of shady crooks.”
Among the other complaints, the lawsuit suggests that the SWAC engaged in “libel and slander, and defamation of character” and “unfair business practices.”
In a statement to Sports Illustrated, the SWAC said it was forced to pursue legal action to protect itself and its member institutions.
“The Conference will continue to take the legal action required to address threats that could potentially compromise the strategic initiatives and objectives endorsed by the leadership at our member institutions, according to the statement.