For the second straight week in almost 14 seasons, Warren Moon wasn’t on the radio or TV Sunday to explain what happened to the Seattle Seahawks in the team’s 42-7 loss to the Rams. Seattle was one of the teams that Moon quarterbacked during his 23 seasons with five Canadian and American pro football teams and has worked for the Hawks as an on-air game analyst since 2003.
Two weeks ago, however, the retired QB was thrown for a loss by an ex-employee of his California sports marketing firm. Wendy Haskell, a 32-year-old former executive assistant to Moon, filed a lawsuit claiming to be a sex-abuse victim of Moon’s “dark and twisted” lifestyle—which he says is untrue. “Mr. Moon denies the claims by Ms. Haskell,” states his attorney, Daniel Fears. Moon believes her claims are meritless, Fears says, “and he has every intention to vigorously defend himself in court.”
The lawsuit is something of an opening salvo on the National Football League as the #MeToo movement continues to out alleged high-profile sexual abusers. Within days of Moon’s lawsuit story surfacing, for example, five ex-jock sports announcers were taken off the air by ESPN and the NFL Network after a sex-harassment lawsuit was filed against them. The former players, including ex-Seahawk fullback Heath Evans, onetime Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, and Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, allegedly groped, fondled and continually made sexually explicit comments to NFL Network wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor, 52, who brought the suit.
That was followed by allegations of harassment made against a NFL owner, the Carolina Panthers’ Jerry Richardson. No details were given about the claim, but two days later Richardson announced he would sell the team and leave the league.
Sexual harassment has been an issue with the current and former owners of the Seahawks franchise, as well. In 2006, Seattle Weekly reported on a lawsuit brought against today’s billionaire owner Paul Allen by one of his Hollywood executives, Abbie Philips. She sued for breach of contract and sexual battery, claiming Allen attacked her in 1996 at his Mercer Island estate. A year later, she says, he fired her from their West Hollywood multimedia company in retaliation for resisting sexual advances. Allen denied her claims, and the case was quietly settled out of court.
That was the fate as well of a sexual assault-and-battery claim brought against Allen’s predecessor, billionaire owner Ken Behring. As recounted in the Weekly’s now-defunct sister paper EastsideWeek (no link available), Behring’s secretary, Patricia Parker, claimed to have endured more than two years of sexual harassment before he allegedly assaulted her in 2006. Parker also claimed she was required to hide Behring’s sexual liaisons from his wife by changing the boss’s “soiled linens” and arranging phony hunting trips for him. Behring was sued at least three times by women claiming harassment, so he had Parker draw up a “sexual release form” he gave to his dates. He carried the releases around in his brief case and made women sign them before having sex with him, the secretary claimed.
Neither owner was publicly penalized for any transgressions in those days. Moon, however, was immediately taken off the air at his request, the Seahawks said. That raised doubts about his off-field future.
Moon’s professional career began with doubts of a different sort. Despite the talent he displayed as the most valuable player in the University of Washington’s upset victory over Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl, the black quarterback never got a respectable offer from a National Football League team.
He ended up playing his first six pro seasons for the Edmonton Eskimos, leading them to five Grey Cup (Canada’s Super Bowl) wins, earning two MVP awards and becoming the first professional football player anywhere to pass for 5,000 yards in a season (that was 1982; Miami’s Dan Marino was the first in the National Football League to pass that mark, in 1984)
Moon returned triumphantly to the U.S., becoming the NFL’s highest-paid player—a five-year, $10 million contract signed in 1989 with the then-Houston Oilers. The deal was equal to $33.7 million in today’s dollars. In 2006, he topped off three decades of gridiron glory with pro football’s highest honor, induction into the NFL’s Hall of Fame as its first African-American quarterback.
At the awards ceremony in Canton, Ohio, he had special thanks for the women in his life. “My dad died when I was seven years old,” he said. “My mom took care of six of us. I have five sisters that were the loves of my life. They were my biggest fans.”
His first wife, high-school sweetheart Felicia, the mother of their four children, attended the Hall of Fame event, held five years after their divorce. “I’ll always love you,” he said to her during his speech. His current wife, Mandy, was there as well. He said he loved her, too, adding “I want to thank you all for being a part of this.”
Today, having at least temporarily left the radio booth he shared with another ex-Seahawk, play-by-play announcer and KIRO-TV anchor Steve Raible, he’s effectively been silenced by the wall of shame that has so quickly engulfed other well-known figures—actors, musicians, producers, TV personalities and politicians—recently accused of sexually harassing or assaulting female acquaintances or employees.
Moon joined the ever-growing list on Dec. 4 after Haskell claimed in a lawsuit she was forced to perform sex-oriented duties as Moon’s traveling assistant. They included, Haskell alleged, sharing his bed on road trips, wearing thong underwear in the hotel room, and leaving the bathroom door unlocked whenever she showered.
In her Orange County, Calif., lawsuit filed against Moon and his agency, Sports 1 Marketing in Irvine, Haskell said Moon, 61, had drugged her drink and pulled off her bathing suit during a trip to Mexico. She does not allege the two had sex but claims he sometimes grabbed her crotch while she slept.
Moon had been accused of abuse in the past by his then-wife Felicia. Police were called to their home at least three times to handle domestic disputes during their marriage. One case went to trial in Texas after Felicia claimed Warren choked and slapped her – but he was acquitted when she took blame for creating the situation. In 1995, Moon also settled a claim by paying $150,000 to a Minnesota Vikings cheerleader who said he had harassed her with offers of money for sex.
In 2007, after an arrest for drunken driving, Moon pleaded guilty to first-degree negligent driving and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service. In 2008, arrested for a second DUI, Moon again pleaded guilty to first-degree negligent driving and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 88 days suspended.
After the second arrest, having refused to take field sobriety and breathalyzer tests and driving on a suspended license, Moon apologized for tarnishing his image. He’s not commenting on his latest moral dilemma today, but his words back then might indicate what he’s thinking.
“I really look at myself as a person who has high integrity and high character,” he told reporters. “To have these errors in judgment is not my character. I’m sorry to put my family, my friends and the Seahawks through this.
“This is kind of an embarrassing thing for me.”