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Warriors’ Ellis sued for alleged sexual harassment
Question of the Day
OAKLAND, CALIF. (AP) - A former Golden State Warriors employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against star guard Monta Ellis on Wednesday, alleging Ellis sent her unwanted texts that included a photo of his genitals.
In her lawsuit, which also names the team, Erika Ross Smith alleges Ellis began sending her several dozen explicit messages, sometimes several times a day, starting in November 2010 through January while she worked for the team’s community relations department.
The messages included lines such as, “I want to be with you,” and “Hey Sexy,” and periodically asked her what she was wearing or doing, according to the lawsuit.
Smith would often reply with “What do you want?” or “I am sleeping,” the lawsuit claims.
“On a micro level, my client has endured unwanted harassment, has suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress and trauma,” her attorney, Burt Boltuch, said at a news conference in his Oakland office. “On a macro level, this type of conduct, especially in the sports world, must stop.
“She was embarrassed. She was intimidated. She felt scared and helpless.”
At a charity event in nearby Alameda, Ellis would only say that the team has responded.
“It’s a legal matter, we’ll let it play its course,” Ellis told KTVU-TV. “Y’know, what happens, happens.”
“I was treated unfairly. I was let go,” Smith said at the news conference. “It wasn’t my fault that I was let go.”
Boltuch also showed a photo of what he said was Ellis‘ genitalia that the guard allegedly sent to Smith’s work-issued cellphone on Dec. 17, 2010, a day after he complained to the team about her job performance.
Rick Welts, the Warriors‘ president and chief operating officer, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the organization takes all harassment allegations seriously.
“When we were made aware of a consensual relationship between Mr. Ellis and the Plaintiff, we did what an organization should do. We told both to stop _ promptly, directly and fairly,” Welts said. “The Warriors have never taken any action against the Plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making.”
Boltuch rejected the team’s claim.
“It was absolutely, unequivocally 100 percent not consensual,” Boltuch said. “And if it was, why was my client’s job duties removed and nothing was done to Mr. Ellis? To me that smacks of sexual harassment.”
Ellis‘ agent, Jeffrey Fried, said Wednesday that he was en route to Oakland and didn’t immediately have a comment.
Smith, who has worked in similar jobs with the Washington Wizards and the Phoenix Suns, said Wednesday that it was tough to go public.
“It was pretty hard because I knew that essentially my career is over and it would be hard to re-establish myself after working so hard throughout the years,” said Smith, who believes she may be blacklisted in NBA circles.
The following month, Juanika Ellis apparently used her purse to push Smith into a wall during a Warriors home game, the lawsuit said. Smith said she believes that Ellis‘ wife believes Smith initiated the texts with the player.
“She was accusatory towards me,” Smith said Wednesday.
“They offered her what I believe is a bribe,” Boltuch said. “They said, `It’d be best if you resign and we’ll give you some money.’ She rejected it.”
The lawsuit alleges retaliation, wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified damages.
Ellis was the Warrior’s leading scorer last season, averaging 24.1 points per game. His acrobatic layups and ball handling skills have made him a fan favorite though he is known to be reticent and has few endorsement deals and less notoriety than other players of his stature.
He then sustained a serious ankle injury that summer on his motorized scooter and missed most of the season, earning a 30-game suspension without pay because he wasn’t supposed to be riding such a vehicle.
Ellis was recently selected as a team captain for this season.
By Michael Widlanski
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