OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A woman who worked for the Golden State Warriors says that guard Monta Ellis “sexually harassed, intimidated and stalked” her, and that the NBA team and its owners turn a blind eye to similar conduct.
The complaint filed Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court claims that Ellis started stalking Erika Smith in November 2010 while she was working for the Warriors’ community relations department.
“Commencing on or about November 19, 2010, and for several months thereafter, Monta Ellis initiated several dozen non-work related texts to plaintiff’s work-related cellular telephone, often texting plaintiff several times in a single day, late at night or in the early morning hours,” the complaint states. “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 ‘secret’ cellular telephone that was kept by GSW’s equipment manager and for which the bills went to Monta Ellis’ grandmother. The secret telephone had a ‘601’ area code.”
Smith says Ellis sent her at least 61 texts from the secret phone by Dec. 16, 2010, with messages that asked what she was wearing and said, “I want to be with you” and “Hey Sexy.”
Sometimes Smith would “reluctantly repl[y]” to these messages by saying, “what do you want” or “I am sleeping,” according to the complaint.
After Smith “again rejected” Ellis on Dec. 16, she says team supervisors told her that Ellis had complained to management about her work performance.
The next day, he texted her “a picture of the genitalia of an African-American male, informing plaintiff that the picture was of his genitalia,” according to the complaint. “Plaintiff was horrified, but … feared reporting the incident” because Ellis had already complained falsely about her work performance and because he was a franchise player.
Smith says she felt that she had to “humor” Ellis and “periodically reply to the incessant texts” because the team and its owners have condoned “several other instances of sexual harassment by males employed by GSW toward women employed by GSW.”
Since Nov. 1, 2010, this encouragement has included “requiring the Golden State Girls to perform for the personal enjoyment of [team owner Joe] Lacob and/or his golfing friends; [and] failing to prevent, investigate and/or remedy sexual harassment by a vice president of GSW that occurred June-July 2011,” the complaint states.
The team also has a history of taking other allegations of sexual harassment and “sweeping [them] under the rug” and “retaliating against females employed by GSW who complained about and/or were victims of sexual harassment,” according to the complaint.
Smith says she received a call from Ellis’ wife, Juanika Ellis, in January 2011, and that the wife said she “knew of the ‘secret cellular telephone’ and of the texts between her husband and plaintiff.
She thinks Ellis’ wife went to team management that day and “falsely accused plaintiff of stalking and/or having a sexual relationship with Monta Ellis.”
“To the contrary, plaintiff has never stalked and never had any sexual relationship with Monta Ellis,” the complaint states.
After waiting a week to avoid upsetting Monta Smith before a “big game” with the Los Angeles Lakers, GM Larry Riley “told Monta Ellis ‘not to worry’ and that ‘everything would be swept under the rug,'” the complaint states.
Smith also says that, several weeks later, as she was working in the players’ tunnel at a home game, Juanika Ellis walked toward her, blocked her “and, using her purse, forced plaintiff to bang into a wall.”
In mid-February, Human Resources Executive Director Erika Brown allegedly encouraged Smith to resign in exchange for a “bribe.” Smith says she refused, so the team quickly barred her from attending Warriors special events, which was a key element of her job.
Smith says the stress exacerbated her heart condition, and the team ultimately failed to keep the cover-up quiet.
Less than two weeks after a local newspaper reporter sent her a text message, “inquiring if Monta Ellis was ‘stalking'” her, the Warriors fired Smith, according to the complaint.
The complaint names as defendants Ellis; the Golden State Warriors; owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber; GM Larry Riley; and HR Executive Director Erika Brown.
Smith is seeking punitive damages and reinstatement, alleging sexual harassment, wrongful termination and unpaid wages.
Burton Boltuch, an attorney for Smith, said Tuesday that the Warriors had refused to resolve the matter previously.
ESPN reports that Ellis was the Warrior’s leading scorer last year, averaging 24.1 points per game.