Erika Ross Smith, a former Golden State Warriors employee, has filed a lawsuit against NBA star Monta Ellis for sexual harassment for unwanted sexual text messages.
Smith alleges in a lawsuit that Ellis sent her multiple unwanted explicit text messages - sometimes several times in a single day, late at night, or in the early morning hours - when she worked as the team's director of community relations.
The former Warriors executive was fired in January after Ellis' wife found out about the text messages and complained to team executives, according to the lawsuit.
Ellis allegedly sent multiple inappropriate text messages, including a picture of his penis, with messages like Hey Sexy and I want to be with you.
But despite the pending lawsuit against Ellis and the organization, the Warriors stand behind their decisions with the situation.
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, the team's president and chief operating officer, Rick Welts, said in a statement read to reporters in Oakland. The Warriors have never taken any action against the plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making.
Burton Boltuch, Smith's attorney, told reporters on Tuesday that his client was afraid to go the organization because she was afraid of the power Ellis had within the team. Ellis is the highest-paid Warrior and is one of the team's most marketable and popular players.
On a micro level, my client has endured unwanted harassment, has suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress and trauma, her attorney, 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.
Boltuch allegedly showed pictures of Ellis' genitalia that was taken in Dec. 2010, but refused to send the picture to Deadspin. Boltuch said that he couldn't verify whether it was Ellis' genitalia or not, but that the basketball star claimed it to be him in the illicit text messages.
It's a very graphic color picture of an African-American penis dangling there, with Warriors sweatpants lowered, is the description he gave to Deadspin.
Boltuch said that his client was terminated after she went to human resources to inform the department that a local reporter had asked her whether Ellis was stalking her. He also said that the relationship absolutely wasn't consensual, as the Warriors allege in their statement.
The decision for Smith to publicly pursue a lawsuit against a popular star like Ellis has been a difficult one for the former NBA executive.
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, Smith told reporters.
Smith previously worked for the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns during her NBA career. Boltuch said that his client is in her 30s and single, but established with Ellis that she was not interested.