Ex-Mavs GM Donnie Nelson sues team, alleges he was fired for reporting sexual assault; Mark Cuban denies it

Former Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson has sued the team, alleging that he was fired because he had reported sexual assault and harassment, per ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr.

The lawsuit alleges that Jason Lutin, Mark Cuban’s chief of staff, sexually assaulted Nelson’s nephew at NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago in 2020.

From ESPN:

Nelson, in his lawsuit filed in Dallas County court, says Jason Lutin, described in the lawsuit as Cuban’s “right-hand man” and who still works for the team, assaulted and harassed his nephew in a hotel room during the 2020 All-Star Weekend in Chicago. The nephew, a man in his 20s who is not identified in the lawsuit, had been invited by Lutin to his hotel room, the lawsuit says.

Regarding the alleged sexual assault by Lutin during All-Star Weekend, the lawsuit says that Nelson asked Lutin if he would visit with his nephew about job possibilities with the Mavericks and in the sports and entertainment industry. Nelson’s nephew attended a lunch, hosted by (former Mavericks head coach and Donnie’s father) Don Nelson. The lawsuit includes a photo of the lunch guests, including Lutin and the nephew.

After lunch, Lutin invited Nelson’s nephew to meet him in Lutin’s hotel 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 says in the lawsuit that he found out about the incident five months later, after his nephew and the team had reached a settlement and Nelson had begun discussing a potential contract extension with Cuban. He then confronted Cuban about it, and, as a result, Cuban withdrew the team’s 10-year, $66 million contract offer in September, Nelson says. He also says that Cuban offered him $52 million to sign a confidentiality agreement about the alleged assault. Nelson filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December, and the lawsuit alleges that Cuban “may not have disclosed” that complaint to the NBA.

Cuban and Lutin denied the allegations to ESPN via email:

“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 also denied the allegations in an email to ESPN and said, “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 said. “And obviously have a lot of information to show none of that ever happened.”

In a separate email to the Dallas Morning NewsCuban wrote, “The filing is full of lies and ridiculous. The NBA is and was fully aware of our investigation into Mr. Nelson and his claims. They fully supported our conclusion that the only person to violate The Mavs and NBA policies was Mr . Nelson, and they were fully supportive of our decision to terminate Mr. Nelson.”

The Mavericks later released an official statement (via Marc Stein):

Allegations that were brought against Jason Lutin were promptly and thoroughly investigated by outside investigators and counsel. The NBA was immediately made aware of the allegations. The claims were determined to be fabricated and the matter was resolved.

Separately, Mr. 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.

Mr. Nelson is fully aware, as is the NBA, of the reasons for his termination at the end of the 2020-21 season.

The Mavs have always intended to hold private the inappropriate actions of Donnie Nelson that led to his termination.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said, via Steinthat the “league office was aware of the complaint that was made against Jason Lutin and that the Mavericks conducted an investigation into the complaint. We were also made aware by the Dallas Mavericks that Donnie Nelson was going to be relieved of his duties.”

Nelson said in a statement to ESPN that “it was extremely important that I speak up” and he filed the lawsuit “on behalf of my family and all the Mavericks employees who have experienced harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in the workplace.”

In 2018, a Sports Illustrated story about the team’s workplace culture prompted the NBA to hire a law firm to conduct a full investigation of the franchise. The investigation “substantiated numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct within the Mavericks organization over a period spanning more than twenty years,” per the league’s official press release.

As a result of that investigation, the Mavericks were required to send the league quarterly reports about how they were implementing its recommendations and immediately report any instances or allegations of significant misconduct. Cuban told ESPN that “we did so without exception.”

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