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Report: Rockets sued after players allegedly used gay slurs to taunt Barclays Center server last year

Apr 1, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

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If true, the Rockets players and organization are going to fork over some cash for this — and they should.

A gay food server who formerly worked in the Barclays Center has sued the Houston Rockets claiming late last season players chased him out of the locker room where he was setting up the pre-game buffet by using gay slurs, then he said he was demoted Levy Restaurants (the company that handles catering at Barclay’s) when he complained of the abuse.

The New York Post spoke to the attorney of the plaintiff, who named the Rockets and Levy in the suit (not the Barclays Center itself nor the Nets).

(The server, Rasean Tate) claims that he was setting up a buffet in the visiting Rockets locker room before a game on Feb. 22, 2013, when he was all but chased from the area because he was gay.

“When the plaintiff’s back was turned to defendant Rockets players, he began to hear laughter and taunting voices saying ‘get this f—– out of here!’ ” according to the suit, and ” ‘He’s trying to catch a sneaky-peeky!’…

“These series of comments were repeated a number of times by defendant Rockets players and staff,” according to the suit. “Plaintiff could hear defendant Rockets players overlapping voices and laughter.”

No Rockets’ players were named in the suit.

The lawsuit claims Tate was phased out of locker room duty after he complained and he was given fewer hours to work because of it.

The Rockets and Levy Restaurants have yet to address the lawsuit. We have yet to hear another side of the story, to have any details fleshed out. With lawsuits that could be embarrassing for the defendants such as this the plaintiff’s attorney often will go public trying to put pressure on the defendants to make the problem go away (with a large settlement).

If the incident occurred as Tate described it the team and the players involved should see punishment. But the legal process is a long and winding one so we will see where this leads.

  1. seattlesuperchronic - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:58 PM

    I bet Dwight is happy he didn’t play for Houston last year. This is a bad look.

    • 1forest1 - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:37 AM

      Yeah cause he had such a better time with LA

      • seattlesuperchronic - Apr 2, 2014 at 3:39 AM

        I’d rather work in LA for a year than be one of the subjects of a lawsuit. You don’t want to be labeled a homophobe if you’re an athlete.

    • spthegr8 - Apr 2, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      The Houston Bigot’s.!!!

  2. Craig W. - Apr 2, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    I certainly can believe this could have happened. The sports mentality often trails what is publicly acceptable.

    It would be interesting if the NBA became the first sports league to really have its players forced to admit that we are in the 21st century – and this means derogatory remarks making fun of who people are are not acceptable. What we learn in elementary school, we have to unlearn in high school.

    • raidordie - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      How does it feel to be a beta-male?

      • spursareold - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        Look in the mirror.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Apr 3, 2014 at 9:20 PM

      WTF are you talking about?

  3. phillysports1 - Apr 2, 2014 at 12:18 AM

    Who can possibly have said that ? Harden ?

    • pharohislife - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:48 AM

      Beverly maybe, some of the other 1st or 2nd year players that don’t play that much. I doubt one of the core guys said it.

  4. timb12 - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:14 AM

    Why are the Rockets getting sued for the Barclay’s Center cutting his hours, etc? If the Rockets players really did this, that’s not good, but they’re hardly to blame for the company somewhat shoving him to the side and telling him to keep quiet.

    • muhangis - Apr 2, 2014 at 6:33 AM

      They could be jointly liable if the plaintiff Tate can prove that it (his employer cutting his hours) was a foreseeable effect of the harassment or taunting. There was a cause-in-fact, or a But For Test applied, where “but for” the Rocket players having not verbally abusing Tate (the plaintiff), then the harm of his cut down in work hours (employer punishment) and being pushed out of locker room duty WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED OTHERWISE. Also it would be a comparative responsibility of both parties, by Levy and the Rockets, in causing the harm suffered to the plaintiff.

      Really you could say that the Rockets are vicariously liable for employing the catering company, or even vice versa, where the catering company as the respondeat superior did not properly protect their employee from the abusive acts of their subordinate, being the Rocket players.

      He can also sue the Houston org for IIED (intentional infliction of emotional distress), and the punishment by his employer could’ve legally contributed to that. It’s all in the law of torts.

      I’m not judging whether he should win, but I think he has a legitimate case, and that’s what his side will argue.

      • timb12 - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        Dang. Thanks for clearing all of that up for me.

  5. lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    It may be bad PR, and grounds for NBA involvement, but I am not sure Houston is liable for anything.
    You have the free speech right to call someone names, and he was not employed in any way by the Rocket organization.

    • infieldhit - Apr 2, 2014 at 3:20 AM

      I don’t think that’s how “free speech” works…

      • Aberam - Apr 2, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        That’s exactly how free speech works. You can verbally insult anyone, and that should not have legal consequences. It will, and should, have social consequences.

      • Kurt Helin - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        No, there can be legal consequences to speech depending what results from that speech. The “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” argument.

      • lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        It is how free speech works.

      • spursareold - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:41 PM

        Nope. Free speech only applies to government censure/prosecution of said speech, not private party intereaction. You can ALWAYS be held responsible for what you say, and sometimes, like slander, there can be legal consequences.

      • dondada10 - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        Guys:

        “Free speech” grants you the right to practice any religion you so choose. It also allows you to gather for the purposes of protest. You can’t run around calling people derogatory remarks.

      • lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:04 PM

        snyder v. Phelps, look it up

    • muhangis - Apr 2, 2014 at 6:38 AM

      There might be free speech rights on the grounds of the Rockets organization, but not all speech is constitutionally protected in a professional workplace environment. That is why you have work place harassment suits, or negligently/intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon another, where the distress was REASONABLY suffered.

      • lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 9:58 PM

        Yeah, but the Rockets in thus case were a customer, not an employee or employer.

    • chunkala - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      Looks like someone needs to crack open the law books.
      Right or not, rule #1 in a business lawsuit is to go after the deepest pockets, Rockets$ greater tahn players$.

      • lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        Either way, if you dont have an employment relationship, you have the free speech right to call someone names.
        Personal discrimination is not illegal, only employment discrimination

    • Andee - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      You have the right to say whatever you want. That right does not protect you from ramifications if you happen to use that right to say something stupid. If you disagree, get up from where you sit right now and tell your boss how big of a piece of crap you think they are and see how far “free speech” gets you.

      If this is true, Rockets better try to keep this under wraps.

      • lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 9:54 PM

        That’s completely different. The NBA can fine the Rockets, but they WILL NOT be held liable in court.

  6. thekingdave - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:03 AM

    Meh. This wouldn’t be a post if it involved the Lakers and is definitely exaggerated due to the whole Dwight leaving for Houston thing. Imagine if we had a rational observer of the game who could keep their emotions in check (without typos and comical grammatical errors) as PBT’s lead basketball poster. What a waste of payroll, where can I apply?

    • Professor Fate - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      From that rambling example you’ve submitted I suspect you can’t clear the already low bar.

  7. psly2124 - Apr 2, 2014 at 2:57 AM

    Nice to inject your opinion in a worthless story. A lazy employee who most likely was bad at his job sues. Wow and you don’t see this as a person who has contributed nothing wants to take from someone of something that has. Another victim. Get over if pal and realize you suck at your job

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Wow are you guessing at facts not yet in evidence based on your personal opinions.

  8. louisvillecardinals - Apr 2, 2014 at 3:16 AM

    this is truly sickening… i hope this isnt true. now i dont believe in homosexuality i think its very wrong but at the end of the day theyre people w feelings n dont deserve to be bashed for their sexual preferences…

  9. shzastl - Apr 2, 2014 at 3:30 AM

    Rockets should not have to pay a dime unless they do so just to make the case go away. Assuming the allegations are true, the comments are reprehensible to be sure, but there is simply no viable legal claim based merely on an episode of taunting and laughing.

  10. nicofthenorthstar - Apr 2, 2014 at 4:44 AM

    Gotta love the utterly clueless free speech comment.
    “I can say whatever I want and never be held responsible for it by anyone! Because free speech!”

    • RavenzGunnerz - Apr 2, 2014 at 6:49 AM

      Sure, your boss can fire you, but the government cannot prosecute you for what you said.

    • borderline1988 - Apr 2, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      Maybe I’m mistaken here, but there’s nothing necessarily ‘illegal’ with what the players supposedly said. Free speech in fact DOES give the players the right to say that.

      Rather the waiter is alleging discrimination from his employer, and using what those players said as evidence of the discrimination. That’s something totally different.

      If I walk over to a stranger on the street and taunt him with those exact same words, I doubt he can turn around and sue me.

    • lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      How is it clueless to point out that the first amendment gives you the right in a non employment situation to say whatever words you want as long as they aren’t knowingly false.

      • lawson1974 - Apr 2, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        If you want to look up how the courts look at inflammatory speech, google Phelps v. Snyder

  11. zxlaa - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    What a bunch of crap……

  12. ufools - Apr 2, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Whether or not Houston is liable, this guys employer sounds guilty of a hostile work environment suit. To cut his hours after a complaint….not smart.

    Where there is smoke, there is fire…..but this may be nothing. Maybe they cut everyone’s hours……

  13. trickybastard - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    “When the plaintiff’s back was turned to defendant Rockets players”

    That’s going to be a problem if he can’t identify who said what. The fact that players haven’t been named may support that.

  14. raidordie - Apr 2, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Can’t wait for all this pc crappie to end. We are losing focus

  15. au1978 - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Disappointing that some of the Rockets players did this. But yeah, it pretty much sounds like Levys is the one that should be sued rather than the Rockets.

  16. bballhistorian - Apr 2, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    Im sure the Rockets werent the only team to do something like this before.

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