Monta Ellis accused of sexual harassment in lawsuit
A former employee of the Golden State Warriors filed a sexual harassment suit against the 26-year-old guard on Wednesday, claiming he sent her unwanted text messages and at least one explicit photo.
Erika Ross Smith, who worked in the team's community relations department, alleges that Ellis sent her explicit messages up to several times a day and even sent a photo of his genitals to her work-issued cellphone.
According to the Associated Press, the messages included lines such as "Hey Sexy," and "I want to be with you." Smith would often reply, "What do you want?" or "I am sleeping."
Smith, who is also suing the Warriors, claims in the lawsuit that her job title was changed and that she eventually was fired after Ellis' wife discovered the text messages and complained to team officials in January. The lawsuit claims wrongful termination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified damages.
Smith's lawyer says his client felt scared and helpless.
"On a micro level, my client has endured unwanted harassment, has suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress and trauma," attorney Burt Boltuch said at a news conference in his Oakland office Wednesday. "On a macro level, this type of conduct, especially in the sports world, must stop."
Rick Welts, president and chief operating officer of the Warriors, says the team is taking the allegations seriously. But he stressed that the franchise never took inappropriate action against Smith.
"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."
Ellis' agent told the AP that his client was traveling to Oakland and was not immediately available for comment.
Ellis, who signed a six-year deal worth $66 million in 2008, was the Warriors' leading scorer last season, averaging 24.1 points per game. He was selected the NBA's most improved player in 2007.
-- Austin Knoblauch
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Top photo: Golden State guard Monta Ellis. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press. Right photo: Former Golden State Warriors employee Erika Ross Smith appears at a news conference Wednesday announcing a lawsuit against Monta Ellis and the Warriors. Credit: Laura A. Oda / Associated Press