NBA basketball team, star player sued for sexual harassment

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 21, 2011 9:18 PM
NBA basketball team, star player sued for sexual harassment

By Emmett Berg

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A former employee of the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday sued team owners, executives and star guard Monta Ellis for sexual harassment, charging that lurid texts from the National Basketball Association star led to her termination.

Oakland resident Erika Smith was hired to work on community relations for the Warriors in 2007 and regularly interacted with team members as part of her duties until her termination in August, according to documents filed in Alameda Superior Court.

Her firing came nine days after a local media outlet inquired if Ellis was "stalking" Smith.

In November 2010, Ellis, who is married, allegedly began the first of a total of 61 unwelcome texts of a sexual nature to Smith's work cell phone, including a photograph of his genitals.

According to the filings, "During the period that Monta Ellis was incessantly texting Plaintiff, Monta Ellis informed Plaintiff that the texting would not be discovered since he was using a 'secret' cellular phone that was kept by equipment manager and for which the bills went to Monta Ellis' grandmother."

A January 13, 2011 incident described in court documents alleges Juanika Ellis, Ellis's wife, discovered the secret phone and texts, and was demanding the ouster from the Warriors organization of Smith, who had previously also worked for NBA teams the Washington Wizards and the Phoenix Suns.

Action was delayed, according to the documents, to ensure Monta Ellis wouldn't learn of his wife's knowledge until after a "big game" against the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a statement released to the media Wednesday afternoon, Rick Welts, Golden State Warriors president and chief operating officer, said the team discovered a consensual relationship between Smith and Ellis and intervened to tell both "to stop promptly, directly and fairly."

"The Warriors have never taken any action against for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making."

Burton Boltoch, an attorney representing Smith, disputed the existence of a consensual relationship, and added that the team "does not address the allegations, the coverup and the fact that they didn't do an investigation."

Neither Ellis nor team officials were immediately available for comment.

(Editing by Mary Slosson and Jerry Norton)