CAA fired tennis agent after harassment claims
CAA Sports fired longtime tennis agent Amit Naor last fall after a two-and-a-half month investigation into his workplace conduct and allegations of sexual harassment of a colleague.
CAA made no public announcement of Naor’s termination, but the allegations, and CAA’s investigation of them, came to light after extensive interviews this year with tennis manager Stephanie Lopez. Lopez also filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission submission in May, claiming that after Naor was fired, she “endured multiple incidents of retaliation” by Steven Heumann, the head of CAA’s tennis division.
Naor has not responded to questions about the allegations that were made against him. Approached in person during the Wimbledon tennis championships in London early last month, he initially denied knowing Lopez, then referred questions to a nearby CAA lawyer who walked away without speaking. A Los Angeles public relations agency, LaBrea Media, later contacted Sports Business Journal to say that it would answer questions on Naor’s behalf. However, LaBrea has not responded since that time.
Lopez, 28, went to Heumann in early August 2017, alleging that beginning soon after she was hired by the company in 2013 Naor had subjected her to verbal, emotional and sexual harassment, culminating in his stated desire in summer 2017 to have sex with her.
The Parties InvolvedStephanie Lopez
Lopez, 28, graduated from UCLA and has a marketing degree from Hult International Business School in London. She joined CAA in 2013 and was promoted to manager in 2015. She is currently on leave.
Naor, 51, played professional tennis starting in 1986. In 2008 he formed a partnership with CAA Sports, which served as the agency’s entry into tennis.
He was fired Oct. 23.
After six years as a tennis pro, he joined CAA in 2007, later working as an assistant to Howie Nuchow, the co-head of CAA Sports. Montz, 41, was promoted to agent in 2010
but was let go in April.
Heumann immediately relayed the claims to CAA’s human resources department, which launched an investigation that on Oct. 23 resulted in the agency firing Naor, who had been a part of the tennis division since 2008. A CAA spokesperson said the agency could verify some, but not all, of Lopez’s specific allegations about Naor, and that Naor was terminated as a result of the investigation.
In her EEOC submission, Lopez claims that, despite repeated requests, CAA forced her to continue to report to Heumann, who she says had “empowered my harasser to dictate every element of my employment and daily tasks.” CAA says Heumann did offer to move Lopez’s day-to-day supervision to a different CAA tennis agent.
Former CAA tennis agent Rick Montz also filed a submission with the EEOC, claiming that he, too, suffered retaliation from Heumann and others at the agency because he supported Lopez in her claims.
A CAA spokesperson stated that the agency “fully investigated Lopez’s and Montz’s complaints about Heumann and determined unequivocally that there was no retaliation.” CAA declined to comment on Lopez’s or Montz’s EEOC submissions, but asserted that it “acted with thoroughness, thoughtfulness, and fairness throughout the investigation.” CAA would not make Heumann available to answer questions.
In late March, Lopez told CAA that she had hired an attorney to represent her in her dispute with the company. Shortly after that, Lopez was placed on paid leave by CAA at the request of her attorney. She is still on leave and said she does not expect to return to the company.
Montz was fired by CAA on April 2. A CAA spokesperson said Montz “was terminated for not meeting basic job requirements.” In a warning letter to Montz a week before he was let go, the agency wrote that he did not meet requirements for in-office attendance, revenue and client services, among other things. Montz disputes those assertions, in particular pointing to the attendance requirement and saying that much of an agent’s time is spent out of the office with clients. He said his job requirements were changed after he supported Lopez’s claims and that other agents weren’t required to follow the same guidelines. A CAA spokesperson, regarding the reasons for Montz’s firing, said that “any alternative theories, including retaliation, that Montz may now offer are demonstrably false.”
Lopez and Montz each have meetings scheduled on Aug. 14 with EEOC investigators, after which the commission will decide if and how quickly to proceed with an investigation.
In addition, Lopez said she has a mediation scheduled with CAA in August. CAA would not confirm whether a mediation is scheduled with Lopez.
CAA said its tennis division continues to represent three tennis clients who were overseen by Naor and who retained Naor as a manager for their tennis affairs after he left the agency. In response to questions, a CAA spokesperson said the agency “no longer does any business with Naor, but that in servicing the handful of clients who choose to be managed by Naor, its agents may on occasion need to communicate with him.”
Such an arrangement is not uncommon in tennis when players split representation.
Within the tennis industry, however, there is still some confusion about Naor’s relationship with CAA. Despite the lack of a public statement regarding Naor’s termination, Heumann did send an email to members of CAA’s tennis division in December instructing employees that, if asked about Naor, they were to reply that he no longer worked at CAA.
In continuing to work with clients who also work with Naor, CAA’s spokesperson said the agency is simply acting in the interests of clients who have asked for its services. The three players who CAA acknowledges work with both CAA and Naor are Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem. CAA’s spokesperson said that “while some clients choose to maintain a relationship with Naor, he is no longer associated with the agency.”
CAA’s tennis division is small, and sources claim it brings in annual revenue in the low seven figures. Lopez wrote in her EEOC submission that clients who were represented by Naor when he was at CAA, and who are now dually represented, continue to account for a substantial portion of the division’s revenue. The CAA spokesperson said that Lopez would not have access to such information and declined to comment on client revenue.
During interviews spanning several days this year, Lopez said that she has gone public with her claims against the agency in large part because of the #MeToo movement.