Sports

Ex-GM Donnie Nelson sues Dallas Mavericks, says he was fired for reporting sexual misconduct; team denies claim


Former longtime Dallas Mavericks basic supervisor Donnie Nelson sued the staff Thursday, alleging that proprietor Mark Cuban fired him final summer season as retaliation for reporting that Cuban’s chief of employees sexually harassed and sexually assaulted his nephew throughout a job interview in 2020.

The lawsuit additionally alleges that Cuban provided Nelson, who was fired in June, $52 million to withdraw a wrongful termination declare and signal a confidentiality assertion associated to the alleged harassment and abuse of his nephew.

Nelson, in his lawsuit filed in Dallas County court docket, says that Jason Lutin, described within the lawsuit as Cuban’s “right-hand man” and who nonetheless works for the staff, assaulted and harassed his nephew in a lodge room throughout the 2020 All-Star Weekend in Chicago. The nephew, a person in his 20s who will not be recognized within the lawsuit, had been invited by Lutin to his lodge room, the lawsuit says.

Cuban denied Nelson’s allegations in an e mail to ESPN.

“Everything in that filing is a lie,” Cuban wrote. “We did multiple complete investigations and the only person that did not live up to the standards of the Dallas Mavericks was Mr. Nelson. He was fired as a result. He was well aware of the investigation. He refused to fully participate. I will say it again, everything he said is a lie.”

Lutin additionally denied the allegations in an e mail to ESPN and stated, “What this man [Nelson] is doing to someone like me is absolutely unspeakable.”

“It’s a complete lie and I defer to Mavs to comment and who have already dealt with this matter,” Lutin stated. “And obviously have a lot of information to show none of that ever happened.”

Nelson didn’t discover out in regards to the alleged Feb. 16, 2020, incident involving Lutin, or a subsequent settlement for an undisclosed quantity that his nephew quietly reached with the staff, till 5 months later, after he and Cuban had begun discussions to increase his contract for 10 years, the lawsuit says.

At that time, Nelson confronted Cuban and stated Lutin’s alleged actions had been “putting the Mavericks’ employees, players and the entire organization at risk,” in keeping with the lawsuit.

On Sept. 18, 2020, the lawsuit claims, Cuban despatched Nelson a textual content delaying one other dialogue a couple of contract extension, saying, “But honestly, before I can talk I have to find out more of what’s going on with the other matter. Since it’s related to some of the discussions we have had.”

Cuban’s textual content, the lawsuit claims, is a response to Nelson’s warning that different Mavericks workers had been prone to being sexually harassed by Lutin, whom the lawsuit calls “a sexual predator.”

“In this lawsuit, Cuban will be held to account for his lip service and false public persona and repeatedly ignoring and repeatedly covering up high level executives’ sexual harassment and discrimination against Mavericks’ employees,” reads the criticism.

On June 13, Cuban notified Nelson that he was firing him. Media reviews on the time stated Nelson was fired amid “internal friction” with Haralabos Voulgaris, the previous skilled gambler employed in 2018 to be the Mavericks’ director of quantitative analysis and improvement.

The lawsuit alleges a direct hyperlink between “Nelson’s complaint and report of Lutin’s improper activities” and Cuban’s withdrawal of a 10-year, $66 million contract supply to Nelson in September 2020.

Nelson labored for the Mavericks for twenty-four seasons, serving as an assistant basic supervisor and assistant coach earlier than being promoted to president of basketball operations. He remained Cuban’s high basketball govt for years after the bitter departure of his father, Don, who served as Mavericks coach and basic supervisor from 1997 to 2005.

In December, Nelson filed a criticism with the Equal Employment Alternative Fee.

“There were absolutely no mistakes, warnings … or job performance issues with Nelson between the time he reported Lutin’s sexual harassment and sexual predatory proclivities and the time period that Mark Cuban revoked the 10-year offer and began a campaign of retaliation,” Nelson’s criticism says.

In his lawsuit, Nelson alleges that Cuban provided him $52 million if he would enter right into a confidentiality settlement in regards to the alleged sexual assault of his nephew. Within the unexecuted settlement that’s hooked up to the lawsuit, the Mavericks deny Nelson’s claims and admit no wrongdoing however bar him from discussing or disclosing his allegations.

“If the statements in Nelson’s EEOC charge were false and the Mavericks really fired Nelson for poor job performance, why in the world would Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks, or anybody offer Nelson $52 million dollars to settle Nelson’s legal claims?” the lawsuit states.

In an announcement to ESPN, Nelson stated he filed the lawsuit “on behalf of my family and all the Mavericks employees who have experienced harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in the workplace.”

“Filing a lawsuit is not something to be taken lightly — however, it was extremely important that I speak up,” Nelson stated in his assertion. “The facts that come out in this lawsuit will hopefully protect the incredible people I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with during my 24 years with the Mavericks.”

Nelson’s lawyer, Rogge Dunn, stated in an announcement that Nelson had “courage to file this lawsuit,” including, “I hope anyone who has been sexually harassed by a Mavericks’ employee will also speak out. I trust that people who have knowledge about the facts and issues in this lawsuit will step forward.”

The lawsuit alleges that Cuban “may not have disclosed” Nelson’s EEOC cost to the NBA.

Relating to the alleged sexual assault by Lutin throughout All-Star Weekend, the lawsuit says that Nelson requested Lutin if he would go to together with his nephew about job prospects with the Mavericks and within the sports activities and leisure business. Nelson’s nephew attended a lunch, hosted by Don Nelson. The lawsuit features a photograph of the lunch visitors, together with Lutin and the nephew.

After lunch, Lutin invited Nelson’s nephew to fulfill him in Lutin’s lodge room “to discuss job possibilities,” the lawsuit says.

“Lutin asked Nelson’s nephew to sit next to him on the bed and then sexually harassed and sexually assaulted an unsuspecting, vulnerable LGBTQ young man seeking employment with the Mavericks,” the lawsuit states. “Lutin’s numerous policy violations and indiscretions were clearly in breach of the Mavericks supposed ‘zero-tolerance’ policy.”

Nelson’s EEOC criticism from December says that Cuban “could not afford to be exposed for Lutin’s sexual harassment.”

“Instead of taking prompt remedial action against Lutin and firing him,” the EEOC criticism says, “as required pursuant to the Mavericks supposed zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment, the Mavericks quietly and confidentially resolved the sexual harassment and sexual assault” of Nelson’s nephew and Lutin remained employed with none self-discipline.

The EEOC criticism continued, “Cuban’s cover up of Lutin’s sexual harassment and sexual assault is proof that the only reason Cuban ever cared about the discriminatory and sexist work environment of the Mavericks was when it was exposed and publicized by Sports Illustrated.”

In 2018, a Sports activities Illustrated story in regards to the Mavericks group described “a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior” that spanned a long time, together with quite a few allegations towards former CEO and president Terdema Ussery, who left the staff in 2015.

A subsequent NBA investigation by an outdoor legislation agency interviewed 215 present and former Mavericks workers and examined greater than 1.6 million paperwork, emails and textual content messages.

The investigation discovered there was “improper workplace conduct” towards 15 feminine workers by Ussery, together with inappropriate feedback, touching and forcible kissing. It additionally discovered improper office conduct by former ticket gross sales worker Chris Hyde, together with inappropriate feedback to girls of a sexual nature and the viewing and sharing of pornographic photographs and movies.

Investigators concluded that the Mavericks’ administration employees was “ineffective, including a lack of compliance and internal controls.” It additionally discovered that the staff’s govt management not solely allowed an improper office surroundings to exist but in addition fostered the assumption that these taking part in that surroundings may flourish.

“The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking and no employee in the NBA, or any workplace for that matter, should be subject to the type of working environment described in the report,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated in an announcement in September 2018. “We appreciate that Mark Cuban reacted swiftly, thoroughly and transparently to the allegations first set forth in Sports Illustrated — including the immediate hiring of Cynthia Marshall as CEO to effect change.”

After the investigation, Cuban agreed to contribute $10 million to girls’s organizations however confronted no different punishment. He advised ESPN he has adopted necessities given to the staff by the NBA following the league’s investigation.

“The NBA sent us a long list of requirements as the result of the 2018 investigation,” Cuban stated. “We had a list of things that had to be reported to the NBA every year. And we did so without exception.”

In a 2018 interview with ESPN, Cuban apologized to those that had been victims of assault.

“In hindsight, it was staring me right in the face and I missed it,” Cuban stated. “You know … I wasn’t as focused on the business as I should’ve been.

“It simply by no means in my wildest desires that I feel that this was occurring proper beneath me. And I by no means — the ache that folks went via, the ache that folks shared with me as this occurred, the tears that I noticed … it simply, it harm. And the way in which I felt is nothing in comparison with the way in which they felt. … I imply, I’ve to acknowledge I made a mistake, study from it after which attempt to repair it.”



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