Former Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson filed a lawsuit against the team on Thursday. Nelson claimed he was fired by team owner Mark Cuban in retaliation for reporting Cuban’s chief of staff for allegedly sexually harassing and sexually assaulting Nelson’s nephew during a job interview in 2020.
The suit claims that Jason Lutin, Cuban’s chief of staff, harassed and assaulted Nelson’s nephew, a man in his 20s, in a hotel room during the 2020 All-Star weekend in Chicago. The suit went on to say that Nelson was concerned that other employees and players of the organization were also at risk of this same treatment by Lutin.
Nelson, who says he wasn’t made aware of the allegations until five months after the 2020 All-Star weekend, also accused Cuban of offering him $52 million in exchange for signing a confidentiality clause regarding the allegations and withdrawing his wrongful termination case. The suit also alleged that Nelson and Cuban began preliminary conversations about a contract extension for the general manager in August 2020.
According to the suit, Nelson filed a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the wake of his termination this past June.
Cuban denied the allegations in an email to ESPN, saying an investigation was conducted and “the only person who did not live up to the standards of the Dallas Mavericks was Mr. Nelson,” effectively resulting in his termination. Lutin echoed that denial before deferring to the Mavericks' statement.
The Mavericks organization is no stranger to these types of accusations. A 2018 report by Sports Illustrated described a hostile work environment with allegations “ranging from sexual harassment to domestic violence.” While the organization was characterized as having a “locker room culture,” a female staffer went on to say the actual locker room was a shelter from the office environment.
The subsequent investigation launched by the NBA found team CEO and president Terdema Ussery committed “improper workplace conduct” against 15 female employees. Ussery took over as CEO of the Mavericks in 1997, a position he held until retiring in 2015. In the wake of this investigation, Cuban hired Cynthia Marshall to take over as CEO, a move that was celebrated throughout the league.
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The suit claims it's unclear if Marshall or the NBA was aware of the EEOC charge as Cuban's lawyers directed all correspondence to be directed to them, instead of the Mavericks organization.
Nelson left the Mavericks this past summer after 24 years with the franchise. Under his leadership, the Mavericks won their first NBA championship in 2011.
At the time of his departure, it was rumored to largely be due to increasing internal tensions within the Mavericks’ basketball operations, specifically citing Haralabos Voulgaris, the team’s director of quantitative research and development from 2018 to 2021.
Nelson is the son of coach Don Nelson, whose record for all-time wins as an NBA coach was surpassed by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Friday.