DALLAS – Former Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson sued the team Thursday, alleging that team owner Mark Cuban fired him in retaliation for reporting sexual misconduct by a team executive.
In a court document filed in a Dallas County court, Nelson said his relationship with Cuban soured after he called for action against a team executive who is a close Cuban aide for sexually harassing a job applicant. Unbeknownst to Nelson, the lawsuit said, Cuban had reached a confidential settlement with the applicant.
The deterioration of his relationship with Cuban, which Nelson said had previously been close, climaxed with his firing, the lawsuit alleged.
When Nelson complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of illegal retaliation, Cuban offered him $52 million to drop the complaint and enter into a non-disclosure agreement, the lawsuit alleged.
Nelson also accused Cuban of a pattern of covering up sexual misconduct claims.
“I filed this lawsuit on behalf of my family and all the Mavericks employees who have experienced harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in the workplace,” Nelson said in a statement.
In a statement, the Mavericks said the allegations against the team executive “were promptly and thoroughly investigated by outside investigators and counsel” and “were determined to be fabricated.” The team also said Nelson “refused to cooperate with the investigators that were looking into his behavior. Nelson’s claims of being terminated because of retaliation are completely unfounded and the lawsuit filed today is baseless and full of lies.”
The statement concluded: “The Mavs have always intended to hold private the inappropriate actions of Donnie Nelson that led to his termination.”
Cuban also denied the allegations to ESPN, saying: “Everything in that filing is a lie. 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."
In 2018, the NBA reviewed 2011 allegations of sexual assault against Cuban and the investigation that led to a decision by prosecutors not to pursue the case. Commissioner Adam Silver chose not to suspend Cuban after finding that he was not directly implicated in the misconduct toward women within his organization.
Cuban also agreed to contribute $10 million to help further the cause of women in sports and raise awareness about domestic violence after an investigation substantiated numerous incidents of sexual harassment and improper workplace conduct within the franchise going back more than 20 years.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“The NBA league office was aware of the complaint that was made against Jason Lutin and that the Mavericks conducted an investigation into the complaint," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said Thursday. "We were also made aware by the Dallas Mavericks that Donnie Nelson was going to be relieved of his duties.”