The Golden State Warriors are being sued by an ex-employee who says she lost her job because she complained about sexts she was getting from star guard Monta Ellis.
Erika Ross Smith, who spent four years as the community relations director for the Oakland-based NBA team, sued her ex-employer, former bosses and Ellis, accusing them of sweeping her sexual harassment claims under the rug and firing her in retaliation and in fear of bad press or litigation.
With her attorney Burton F. Boltuch, Smith filed her suit in Oakland on Wednesday morning. The suit names Ellis, the Warriors, owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and General Manager Larry Riley and the team's executive director of human resources, Erika Brown, all as defendants.
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According to Smith, Ellis sexually harassed her from November 2010 to January 2011 with dozens of text messages — sometimes several a day. Those sexts said things like "Hey sexy," asked what she was wearing and contained explicit pictures, the complaint said. (Smith said she typically responded coolly with texts like "I am sleeping.")
Smith said she complained to her bosses about Ellis' alleged sexual harassment but that the team's owners and manager only tried to cover up her claims and, facing concern from Ellis' wife, keep Smith away from him by changing her job duties.
Eventually, according to Smith, Ellis' wife found out about the texts and confronted her directly. Afterward, the team's management pressured Smith to resign, promising to pay her if she did, her suit alleges.
She didn't resign, but soon after hearing from a reporter (to whom she declined to comment), Smith was told by the team that it no longer needed a community relations director and terminated, her suit charges. The suit called the alleged explanation a pretext for what was actually a retaliatory, wrongful firing to prevent a sexual harassment suit.
The Warriors haven't yet filed a response to the complaint, but they issued a statement Wednesday denying Smith's charges and characterizing her as having had a "consensual relationship" with Ellis — a characterization Boltuch called "an absurd position."
According to the Warriors' President Rick Welts, "the Warriors have never taken any action against the plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making."
He added that the team would "vigorously defend" the reputation of the Warriors and that the team would have no further comment.