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Lawsuit alleges Rockets players used gay slurs to taunt Barclays Center worker before 2013 game

Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale reacts during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in New York. The Nets defeated the Rockets, 105-96
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Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale reacts during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in New York. The Nets defeated the Rockets, 105-96. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A gay Brooklyn food service worker alleged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that Houston Rockets players used homophobic slurs to taunt him before a February 2013 game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center, and that the catering company for which he worked responded to his complaints about the treatment by blocking him from certain work assignments before firing him.

Rasean Tate's suit does not target the Nets or Barclays Center. Instead, the 28-year-old Brooklynite "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," according to Selim Algar of the New York Post:

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!’"
The reeling server said that the jabs and snickering didn’t let up.
“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.”

The suit does not identify which specific players allegedly made the remarks. Rockets forward Francisco Garcia told the Post he didn't “remember anyone saying anything to anybody last year, so I don’t have any comment on that.” Houston head coach Kevin McHale was likewise mum, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: “I don’t know anything about a lawsuit. Was it against me? Then I’m OK.”

Tate alleges that things got worse after he came forward about the incident, which was reportedly witnessed by a Nets representative who said he would "take care of it," according to John Marzulli of the New York Daily News:

According to the suit, Tate reported the incident to Levy’s catering manager, a Local 100 union representative, and received an apology from the Nets’ vice president of human resources.
Tate was also told that the Brookyn Nets players had attended a class on “tolerance and sensitivity training” in response to the Rockets' alleged behavior.
But Tate was the one who was benched. He said he was barred from working in dressing rooms, locker rooms and private VIP areas which are lucrative assignments because of the overtime pay.
He was suspended without pay in January for failing to follow instructions, such as maintaining a dirty chef table and retrieving a fork for a customer. Tate claims the accusations were retaliation for his sex harassment complaint.
Tate alleges the ban was a result of his sexual orientation — he acknowledges in the complaint that he is gay.

Representatives for Barclays Center and Levy Restaurants haven't yet commented on the suit. Tate directed the Daily News' inquiries to his lawyer.

“What happened to my client was deplorable,” Marjorie Mesidor, Tate's lawyer, told the Post. “It should not be tolerated by the Houston Rockets or Levy’s. What they needed to do was address his concerns, not retaliate against him for having the courage to speak up.”

You can read the full suit here:

Hat-tip to The Big Lead.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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