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Donnie Nelson, the former general manager of the Dallas Mavericks, filed a lawsuit against the organization on Thursday, claiming that he was dismissed last summer in punishment for reporting that Cuban’s chief of staff sexually harassed and sexually abused his nephew during a job interview in 2020.
Cuban allegedly offered Nelson, who was dismissed in June, $52 million in exchange for withdrawing a wrongful termination claim and signing a confidentiality agreement linked to his nephew’s alleged harassment and abuse, according to the complaint.
Nelson claims that Jason Lutin, Cuban’s “right-hand man” who still works for the organization, abused and harassed his nephew in a hotel room during the 2020 All-Star Weekend in Chicago, according to his complaint filed in Dallas County court. The nephew, a guy in his twenties who is not named in the case, was invited to Lutin’s hotel room, according to the lawsuit.
In an email to ESPN, Cuban rejected Nelson’s charges.
Cuban stated, “Everything in that file is a lie.” “We conducted many thorough examinations, and Mr. Nelson was the only one who did not meet the Dallas Mavericks’ high standards. As a consequence, he was sacked. The inquiry was something he was fully aware of. He declined to engage completely. Everything he stated is a lie, I’ll repeat it again.”
In an email to ESPN, Lutin disputed the charges, saying, “What this guy [Nelson] is doing to someone like me is utterly horrible.”
“It’s a pure fabrication,” Lutin added, “and I’ll defer to Mavs to respond and who have previously handled with this situation.” “And, clearly, we have a lot of evidence that none of it actually occurred.”
Mike Bass, a spokesperson for the NBA, released the following statement: “The NBA league office was made aware of the complaint against Jason Lutin, and the Mavericks launched an inquiry into the matter. The Dallas Mavericks also informed us that Donnie Nelson will be relieved of his responsibilities.”
Outside investigators and attorneys evaluated the allegations made against Jason Lutin quickly and comprehensively. The NBA was informed of the claims right away. The allegations were found to be false, and the case was closed. Mr. Nelson, on the other hand, refused to assist with the investigators who were looking into his actions. Nelson’s allegations that he was fired due to retribution are absolutely false, and the lawsuit filed today is based on falsehoods. Mr. Nelson and the NBA are both well aware of the grounds for his dismissal at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season. The Mavs had always planned to keep Donnie Nelson’s improper acts, which led to his firing, quiet.
Nelson did not learn about the alleged Feb. 16, 2020, incident involving Lutin, or a subsequent settlement for an undisclosed amount reached quietly with the team by his nephew until five months later, after he and Cuban had begun discussions to extend his contract for ten years, according to the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Nelson contacted Cuban at that moment and said that Lutin’s claimed actions were “putting the Mavericks’ workers, players, and the whole company at danger.”
According to the complaint, Cuban texted Nelson on Sept. 18, 2020, postponing another meeting about a contract extension, stating, “But, to be honest, I need to learn more about the other situation before I can speak. Because it relates to some of our previous conversations.”
The complaint argues that Cuban’s text is a reaction to Nelson’s warning that additional Mavericks workers may be sexually harassed by Lutin, whom the lawsuit refers to as “a sexual predator.”
The complaint states, “In this action, Cuban will be held accountable for his lip service and false public character, as well as consistently disregarding and covering up high-level executives’ sexual harassment and discrimination against Mavericks’ workers.”
On June 13, Cuban informed Nelson that he would be fired. According to sources at the time, Nelson was sacked due to “internal conflict” with Haralabos Voulgaris, the Mavericks’ head of quantitative research and development who was appointed in 2018.
The lawsuit claims that “Nelson’s complaint and revelation of Lutin’s unlawful acts” led to Cuban’s September 2020 withdrawal of a 10-year, $66 million contract offer to Nelson.
Nelson served as an assistant general manager and assistant coach with the Mavericks for 24 seasons before being elevated to president of basketball operations. After his father, Don, who served as Mavericks coach and general manager from 1997 to 2005, he remained Cuban’s top basketball executive for years.
Nelson filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December.
Between the time Nelson reported Lutin’s sexual harassment and sexual predatory tendencies and the time Mark Cuban rescinded the 10-year offer and launched a campaign of retribution, “there were absolutely no errors, warnings… or work performance difficulties with Nelson,” according to Nelson’s lawsuit.
Nelson claims that Cuban offered him $52 million if he would sign a secrecy agreement about his nephew’s alleged sexual assault. The Mavericks dispute Nelson’s assertions and concede no wrongdoing in an unexecuted agreement attached to the complaint, but they forbid him from discussing or revealing his allegations.
“Why in the world would Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks, or anybody give Nelson $52 million to settle Nelson’s legal claims if the representations in Nelson’s EEOC accusation were fraudulent and the Mavericks actually dismissed Nelson for poor job performance?” the lawsuit asks.
Nelson said he filed the case “on behalf of my family and any Mavericks workers who have faced harassment, discrimination, or retribution in the workplace,” according to an ESPN statement.
In his statement, Nelson stated, “Filing a lawsuit is not something to be done lightly — yet, it was absolutely necessary that I speak out.” “Hopefully, the facts revealed in this case will safeguard the amazing individuals with whom I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working for the last 24 years with the Mavericks.”
Donnie Nelson was an assistant general manager and assistant coach with the Mavericks for 24 seasons before being appointed to president of basketball operations. In June, he was sacked. USA Today Sports/Jerome Miron
Rogge Dunn, Nelson’s lawyer, stated in a statement that Nelson had “”I hope anybody who has been sexually harassed by a Mavericks’ employee will also come out,” she said, adding, “I hope anyone who has been sexually harassed by a Mavericks’ employee will also speak out.” I am hopeful that anyone with knowledge of the facts and concerns in this case will come forward.”
Cuban “may not have revealed” Nelson’s EEOC accusation to the NBA, according to the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Nelson asked Lutin if he would talk with his nephew about career opportunities with the Mavericks and in the sports and entertainment business over All-Star Weekend, and Lutin agreed. Don Nelson held a lunch for Nelson’s nephew. A picture of the lunch attendees, including Lutin and the nephew, is included in the complaint.
According to the complaint, after lunch, Lutin requested Nelson’s nephew to meet him in Lutin’s hotel room “to explore career opportunities.”
“Lutin sexually harassed and sexually attacked an unsuspecting, vulnerable LGBTQ young man seeking employment with the Mavericks after asking Nelson’s nephew to sit next to him on the bed,” the complaint claims. “Lutin’s multiple policy infractions and transgressions obviously violated the Mavericks’ ostensibly ‘zero-tolerance’ policy.”
Cuban “could not afford to be exposed for Lutin’s sexual harassment,” according to Nelson’s EEOC complaint from December.
“Rather than taking prompt remedial action against Lutin and firing him, as required pursuant to the Mavericks’ ostensibly zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment,” the EEOC complaint claims, “the Mavericks quietly and confidentially resolved the sexual harassment and sexual assault” of Nelson’s nephew, and Lutin remained employed without any disciplinary action.
“Cuban’s cover-up of Lutin’s sexual harassment and sexual assault is evidence that the only reason Cuban ever cared about the Mavericks’ discriminatory and sexist work environment was when it was discovered and reported by Sports Illustrated,” the EEOC lawsuit said.
The Mavericks stated in a statement that the charges against Lutin “were swiftly and fully reviewed by professional investigators and attorneys,” and that the NBA was promptly notified. The accusations “were judged to be fraudulent and the problem was addressed,” according to the team.
The following was the team’s statement: “Mr. Nelson refused to assist with the detectives investigating his actions. Nelson’s allegations that he was fired due to retribution are absolutely false, and the lawsuit filed today is based on falsehoods. Mr. Nelson and the NBA are both well aware of the grounds for his dismissal at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season. The Mavs have always intended to keep Donnie Nelson’s improper activities, which resulted to his firing, confidential.”
A Sports Illustrated piece published in 2018 about the Mavericks highlighted “a corporate culture replete with sexism and predatory sexual conduct” that lasted decades and contained multiple charges against former CEO and president Terdema Ussery, who left the franchise in 2015.
Following that, an independent law firm questioned 215 current and former Mavericks workers and studied over 1.6 million documents, emails, and text messages as part of an NBA investigation.
On Thursday, an NBA spokeswoman did not respond to several messages.
Ussery engaged in “improper workplace behaviour” against 15 female colleagues, including unwanted remarks, groping, and forceful kissing, according to the probe. Chris Hyde, a former ticket sales employee, was also found to have engaged in unethical workplace behavior, including making sexually inappropriate remarks to women and downloading and distributing pornographic photographs and videos.
The Mavericks’ management team was found to be “ineffective,” with “a lack of compliance and internal controls,” according to investigators. It was also discovered that the team’s senior leadership not only permitted an unsuitable work environment to persist, but also encouraged employees to believe that they could thrive under it.
In a statement released in September 2018, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking, and no employee in the NBA, or any workplace for that matter, should be subjected to the type of working environment described in the report.” “We applaud Mark Cuban’s quick, comprehensive, and public response to the charges initially reported in Sports Illustrated, including the immediate appointment of Cynthia Marshall as CEO to achieve change.”
Cuban agreed to donate $10 million to women’s charities after the probe, but he received no extra penalty. He informed ESPN that he had complied with the NBA’s conditions as a result of the league’s inquiry.
“As a consequence of the 2018 probe, the NBA issued us a lengthy list of requests,” Cuban stated. “Every year, we had a list of items that had to be reported to the NBA. And we followed through on every single one of them.”
In a 2018 interview with ESPN, Cuban expressed regret to individuals who had been assaulted.
“In retrospect, it was there in front of me and I missed it,” Cuban remarked. “I wasn’t as focused on the company as I should have been.”
“It was never in my wildest thoughts that I imagined anything like this occurring just under my feet. And I’ll never forget the sorrow that people went through, the grief that individuals expressed with me when this transpired, the tears that I witnessed… it was all so painful. And how I felt pales in comparison to how they felt… I mean, I have to admit I made a mistake, learn from it, and then attempt to correct it.”
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