Former player sues Sparks over response to alleged assault
November 05 2004 12:00 AM ET
A former WNBA player on Wednesday sued the Los Angeles Sparks for unfairly waiving her in response to allegations she had sexually assaulted a woman.
Latasha Byears was cut from the team five days after a June 2003 party at which she and three men were said to have assaulted the woman, a former teammate. Prosecutors said at the time that there had been an investigation, but no one was arrested and no charges were ever filed.
Byears, 31, said her quick dismissal demonstrates bias against lesbians by Jerry Buss, owner of the Sparks and the Los Angeles Lakers. She contrasts Buss's backing of Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who was accused of raping a woman, with the team's response to allegations against her. "They helped pay for chartered flights for Bryant's court appearances...and issued several public statements of support," the suit said, while she was "immediately terminated and banished from the organization."
Former Sparks spokeswoman Kristal Shipp referred calls to the team's assistant general manager, Ron Jackson, and the WNBA. There was no immediate response to a message left with the team after business hours Wednesday. The suit, filed in superior court, said Byears hosted a party following the team's 2003 opening home game, and several people, including the former teammate, spent the night at her apartment.
The next day, assistant coach Karleen Thompson said she had heard Byears and others had sexually assaulted the woman at the party. Byears denied the rumor, but without any other discussion, she was dismissed five days later. "The Lakers/Sparks failed to conduct any investigation...into these bogus allegations," the suit claims.
In her suit Byears asks for general, punitive, and special damages, including actual and future lost earnings and benefits. Byears helped the Sparks to two league championships and ranks seventh
all-time in WNBA field goal percentage.