Lawsuit Claims Houston Rockets Players Taunted Food Server with Anti-Gay Slurs

Joe FlynnContributor IApril 1, 2014

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 29:  Members of the  Houston Rockets stand during the National Anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Toyota Center on March 29, 2014 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets are facing a lawsuit from a man claiming several players directed homophobic slurs at him on the evening of their Feb. 22, 2013 road game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center, per the New York Post's Selim Algar:

Rasean Tate, 28, of Brooklyn, is suing the Rockets and the company that handles catering at Barclays, Levy Restaurant Holdings, for a slew of civil rights violations and anti-gay discrimination.

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!’ “

According to court papers, Tate was offered a verbal apology and promised by his superior that the situation would be addressed. He was also told that Nets players were given special sensitivity training because of the incident.

But the suit also alleges that the catering company phased him out of all locker room duties, "in retaliation for his complaints about the harassment and discrimination he faced by defendant Rockets players and because of plaintiff’s sexual orientation."

Of course, it is important to remember that the Houston team of Feb. 22, 2013 is not the same Houston team of this season. Seven of the nine Rockets to play in that eventual 106-96 victory over Brooklyn are still with the team: James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith and Omer Asik. James Anderson now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Carlos Delfino hasn't played for the Milwaukee Bucks this season due to injury.

The Nets made international news earlier in the season when they singed the first openly gay player in NBA history, Jason Collins. Bleacher Report's Howard Beck meditated on the significance of the moment in early March:

Collins broke a significant barrier last week, and in doing so demonstrated that the NBA is, and was, ready for an openly gay player. The positive response from fans has been encouraging.

Unlike the Rockets, the Nets are not part of the suit being brought by Tate.

As for Houston, the reaction to this story will likely depend on the outcome of the case. If they are found liable, it will put a stigma on the players and the organization.

The Rockets make their one trip of the 2013-14 season to Barclays on Tuesday evening.