Former Sacramento Kings TV play-by-play announcer and sports talk radio host Grant Napear is citing religious beliefs in an amended wrongful termination lawsuit against Bonneville International.
Napear filed an amended complaint in California federal court last week after Judge Dale Drozd dismissed his original complaint in April. The judge gave Napear 21 days to amend his claims after ruling his original complaint did not sufficiently allege wrongdoing by Bonneville, the company that owns Sactown Sports 1140 KHTK.
Napear’s amended complaint alleges he was subject to wrongful termination and discrimination for tweeting “ALL LIVES MATTER … EVERY SINGLE ONE” in the days after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. Napear sent the tweet in response to former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who asked Napear for his opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Bonneville issued a statement saying Napear’s remarks did not “reflect the views or values of Bonneville International Corporation” and the timing of his remarks was “particularly insensitive.” Napear maintains his tweet was an expression of his sincerely held religious beliefs as a member of the Unitarian Church and his opinion with regards to the sanctity of all lives.
Napear states he is a lifelong and devout member of the Unitarian Universalist Church and embraces the seven principles espoused by the church, including the “inherent worth and dignity of every person.” The lawsuit asserts Napear’s tweet was a direct reflection and expression of his religious beliefs as a Unitarian Universalist that all lives matter.
Napear is seeking a jury trial and damages for lost past and future earnings. His lawsuit emphasizes that state law generally prohibits employers from discrimination on the basis of religious or political beliefs.
Napear spent nearly 33 years on Sacramento’s airwaves. He was hired as sports director and sports anchor at Channel 31 in 1987. He became the Kings play-by-play announcer in 1988 and began hosting a daily sports radio show on KHTK in 1995.
Napear found himself at the center of a social media firestorm after responding to Cousins’ tweet on May 31, 2020. Former Kings players Chris Webber and Matt Barnes joined the discussion, with Barnes calling Napear a “closet racist.”
The following day, Napear was suspended from his radio show. The day after that, Napear was informed he was being terminated for cause as defined in his employment contract pursuant to a paragraph that prohibits conduct “that might discredit the goodwill, good name, or reputation of the company.”
Bonneville claimed in court documents that a “barrage of negative responses and reactions on Twitter from fans and players” provided sufficient grounds to show cause for termination.
Napear’s lawsuit asserts that Bonneville is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, informally known as the Mormon Church. Napear argues that, like the Mormon Church, Bonneville has never supported, endorsed, adopted or agreed with the beliefs, ideas or doctrine of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying the Mormon Church has embraced a message equivalent to “All Lives Matter.”
Napear claims this contradicts Bonneville’s stated reason for firing him with regard to the company’s “views or values.” However, the judge who dismissed Napear’s original complaint ruled his allegations “do not plausibly allege a discriminatory motive because (Napear) has not alleged a plausible connection between (Bonneville’s) religious beliefs and his termination.”