For $3 million, Warren Moon contends that he would have never emerged as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed this month in California that alleges sexual harassment and other transgressions by Moon against a woman who worked as his personal assistant.
During an interview with USA TODAY Sports on Thursday, the Hall of Fame quarterback admitted that he slept in the same bed with his employee but denied the bulk of claims in the lawsuit.
Moon also maintains he was threatened in a demand letter on behalf of the woman, Wendy Haskell.
“We got a demand letter that says they want $3 million and that all these different accusations that she made up, ‘We’re going public with this if you don’t pay us $3 million,’” Moon, 61, told USA TODAY Sports. “This was sent on my birthday, so I know this was personal.”
Moon says the letter, e-mailed Nov. 18, stated, “If you don’t pay $3 million by Dec. 5, we’re going to go public with these allegations.”
The suit was filed in Orange County, Calif., on Dec. 4.
Haskell’s Miami-based attorney, Diana Fitzgerald, didn’t immediately respond to USA TODAY Sports for comment on Moon’s claim of money being demanded.
The allegations in Haskell’s lawsuit paint a picture of sexual harassment in the workplace by Moon, who runs a firm, Sports 1 Marketing.
In the lawsuit, Moon is alleged to have grabbed Haskell’s crotch during a business trip to Seattle. He is accused of slipping a drug into her drink during a trip to Mexico.
He denies those accusations.
He is also said to have required, Haskell, 32, to wear thong underwear and share his bed during business trips.
Moon disputes the claim that Haskell — who worked 3½ months as his personal assistant — was reassigned to another position because she was uncomfortable with his sexual advances.
Moon, divorced four years from his second wife, doesn’t deny that he slept in the same bed with Haskell — which he says he also did on occasion for months before he hired her.
Although Moon contends their relationship was a non-sexual friendship that preceded Haskell working for him, it’s beyond odd that he didn’t consider sharing a bed with an employee as problematic to a professional arrangement.
"This started months and months before she ever started working for me,” Moon said. “We were both in the same place, relationship-wise, in our lives.
We weren’t looking for a committed relationship. We were both hanging out.
“I have plenty of female friends that I’ve slept in the same bed with and haven’t done anything with, and it was the same thing with her. It never went beyond that in any way, shape, form or fashion, and she doesn’t even allege that, any sex or anything like that. Sex was never a part of this.”
Moon tries to rationalize this arrangement but doesn’t acknowledge that sleeping with an employee crosses the line when it comes to workplace decorum.
How could he not realize that — and the attached perceptions, regardless of the intimacy level involved?
“It wasn’t something she was ordered to do,” he said. “But again, there was nothing I was doing that was inappropriate, nothing that she wasn’t comfortable with the whole time she was with me before, or after she was working with me.”
Asked if it’s possible that he didn’t grasp her comfort level, Moon said, “I think we had a close enough relationship where she could have told me if any of this was uncomfortable.”
Moon said he met Haskell a few years ago at a Pro Bowl event in Hawaii, then encountered her again at a Hall of Fame event, where she worked on behalf of Jim Kelly’s foundation.
In addition to marketing roles, Moon said that she worked as a physical therapist and that their relationship escalated after she took a physical therapy job in California.
He said they accompanied each other or were part of larger groups for several events, and that ultimately his co-founder for Sports Marketing 1, Dave Meltzer, recommended Haskell to fill an opening and become Moon’s personal assistant.
Haskell was based in Irvine, Calif., during her stint with the company, while Moon lives in Seattle.
He said he typically spends 10 days per month in Orange County, although Haskell’s job included accompanying him on business trips.
It took only a matter of months before it evolved to the point where Moon (currently on a leave of absence from his role as an analyst for the Seattle Seahawks radio network) is defending himself against allegations regarding inappropriate workplace behavior.
“It kind of hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said.
Add Moon to a wave of cases that have come to light in recent weeks, as momentum builds with the #MeToo movement, with women alleging various improprieties against men in powerful positions — crossing the entertainment industry, sports world, media and political realm.
“I am very conscious of what’s going on in our climate today,” Moon said. “There are a lot of women that have come out after years and years of holding things inside, about being either harassed, assaulted or in some cases even being raped in the workplace.
“I’m very, very cognizant of that. I applaud those women for doing that. But I think there’s a very, very small percentage where some of those things are not true. ... In this case, it just doesn’t apply.”
Moon will get his day in court, and he contends that he has evidence to support his innocence.
Still, it’s fair to wonder whether he really gets the distinction between workplace rules that fall under the umbrellas of federal laws versus his “friendship” rules.
It doesn’t seem like it.
“If I was such a bad person, making her do all these things, why come work for me?” Moon said. “Why am I going to change anything about the way I act because you’re working for me? The only difference is that you’re getting a paycheck, and you’re having to perform for me as an employee. Nothing else has changed. That’s the part I don’t understand.
“Looking back in hindsight, ‘Never hire somebody that you have a relationship with,’ is a smart thing not to do,” Moon said. “As far as harassment and the other things I’m accused of, there’s no truth to any of it.”
What Moon needs to understand is pretty simple: The part he admits is true is bad enough.