"NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain," Zimmerman said in the complaint, filed Thursday in Seminole County, Fla., near Orlando.
In February, Zimmerman shot to death the unarmed Martin, 17, during a confrontation. During the 911 call, Zimmerman explained that he had followed Martin in a gated community in which Zimmerman was a neighborhood-watch volunteer.
In the recording heard by NBC viewers, Zimmerman seemed to say without prompting: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black."
Edited out was the 911 dispatcher asking Zimmerman whether the person he was suspicious of was "black, white or Hispanic."
NBC "pounced on the Zimmerman/Martin matter because [the network] knew this tragedy could be, with proper sensationalization and manipulation, a racial powderkeg that would result in months, if not years, of topics for their failing news programs, particularly the plummeting ratings for their ailing 'Today Show,' " the suit alleges.
When the allegation of tape-editing was first made, NBC launched an investigation into the tape, which first aired on the network's "Today" show.
Zimmerman is seeking an undisclosed amount of money. Also named in the suit are three reporters who covered the story for NBC.
On Thursday afternoon, NBC Universal said in a statement: "We strongly disagree with the accusations made in the complaint. There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly. We intend to vigorously defend our position in court."