Basketball star Steve Nash wants court to order clubs to stop using his name

VANCOUVER — Former basketball superstar Steve Nash is seeking a court order banning the use of his name or image on nearly two dozen fitness clubs in British Columbia.

A civil lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court says SNFW fitness has continued operating facilities since October 2014 under the name Steve Nash Fitness World after Nash's relationship with two business partners fell apart.

Nash's Arizona-based company, B & L Holdings, agreed in November 2006 to allow unlimited use of his name and image to a firm that was operating two facilities called Steve Nash Fitness Clubs, the court document says.

The statement of claim says the licensing agreement between Vancouver Bay Clubs and B & L Holdings was to run through March 2022 and there were provisions for the Vancouver company to extend the deal for another five years.

Besides SNFW Fitness, defendants in the claim include Nash's former business partners — Mark Mastrov, the owner of the NBA Sacramento Kings, and Quebec businessman Leonard Schlemm.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and statements of defence have not been filed.

A statement issued on behalf of Steven Nash Fitness World and Sports Club, Schlemm and Mastrov on Wednesday said they hadn't been served with the lawsuit.

"We are saddened that Mr. Nash proceeded to litigation without first raising any of these issues with us directly," it said.

"While we have nothing but respect for Mr. Nash and what he has accomplished as a Canadian athlete, we are confident with our legal position and intend to aggressively defend our rights."

It says the company will establish before the courts that it has the lawful and exclusive right by Nash to use his name, voice, signature, likeness and image within British Columbia.

The statement concludes that media reports of the legal dispute don't tell the complete story.

The statement of claim filed in court says in November 2009, a company called FWG Acquisition was incorporated in B.C., with Mastrov and Schlemm as its directors.

Nash and his partners announced in the same year that they bought the Fitness World Gyms chain, which now includes 21 clubs in the Vancouver area, Victoria, and Kelowna.

However, after Mastrov bought an ownership interest in the Kings in May 2013, NBA bylaws prevented him from doing business with players including Nash, who at the time played for the Los Angeles Lakers, the court document says.

"On or about July 1, 2014, Mastrov, without notice to Nash, resigned as an officer of FWG Acquisition Ltd. and transferred all of his shares to Schlemm. Within days thereafter the defendant SNFW was incorporated."

Months later, Nash's company received a notice saying it was required to sell all its securities to SNFW, the document says.

Instead, the document says that B & L Holdings sold half of its shares to each of Schlemm and Mastrov.

Nash says in the document that his name is still being used by the fitness firm to promote its facilities but he is not involved in operating them and isn't being compensated.

"He has not been a member of the board of directors of SNFW Fitness BC Ltd. He has not signed an affidavit certifying that he endorses the fitness facilities in any way."

Nash is seeking unspecified damages and costs as part of the lawsuit.

The Canadian athlete retired last year while playing for the Lakers after a career that included twice being named the NBA's most valuable player. Nash also played with the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks, and was awarded the Order of Canada in 2007.

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