Two married gay men are suing the Sacramento Kings, alleging mistreatment — which they claim was partly “motivated by homophobia” — during a game last month.
The allegations stem from the Kings’ home game against the Phoenix Suns on March 24. Gabriel Gendron and Kelley Moran allege in court papers that they were sitting in their regular seats during the game when three security guards approached them and demanded the couple follow them.
The two men have been Kings season-ticket holders for 11 years.
They allege the guards then paraded the couple down to the lower level around the court, embarrassing the two men in front of the home crowd. They were then allegedly led to a room where they were, according to the court filing, illegally detained.
That’s when the incident turned homophobic, according to the plaintiffs.
“The Security Supervisor became more agitated upon hearing Mr. Moran refer to Mr. Gendron as his husband,” says the California Superior Court filing. “Suddenly, the Security Supervisor stepped menacingly towards and close to Mr. Gendron and threatened, ‘If I touch you, the way I want to touch you, you won’t be happy.’”
In the filing, Gendron says he felt they were about to be the victims of a physical assault.
Eventually, they claim, a security manager was called and instructed the security guards to release the men back to their seats.
The attorney representing the two men, Ognian Gavrilov, said the team’s reasoning to the men for the incident stems from a pregame disagreement between the couple and someone selling sandwiches in the arena at the game.
“That makes no sense,” Gavrilov told Outsports. “These are not people that when you look at them they look like a threat. They are the most benign people you could meet.”
The Kings as an organization have a history of embracing the local LGBTQ community and fans, hosting annual pride nights and engaging with local organizations.
The alleged incident, as described by the plaintiffs, is reminiscent of an incident involving security removing two lesbians from a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 2000. The Dodgers responded apologetically, and that led to the creation of the first “Pride Night” in professional sports, a trend that quickly built in baseball and has extended throughout sports.
Gavrilov told Outsports that the Kings have met with the men and told the couple that they did “nothing wrong” as fans that night. He added the Kings made an offer of compensation to the men, but that it was not sufficient for them.
“Basically their reaction was, ‘you guys just need to suck it up,’” Gavrilov said of the team’s offer. “That’s what I gathered from their reaction. It’s bizarre they wouldn’t want to make it right.”
The complaint names the Kings and the Sacramento Downtown Arena as defendants and requests damages in excess of $25,000 for false imprisonment, threat of violence and other causes of action.
The Kings declined a request for comment.
The two men said they have not returned to a Kings game since the incident despite having season tickets. The Kings are currently the No. 3 seed in the West and face the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
The couple have been together for 30 years and have attended Kings games throughout those three decades.