After an explosive documenting of a culture of sexual harassment and assault, the Mavericks’ promised change. New reports indicated they failed to deliver.
Two years after an investigative report by Sports Illustrated exposed an unchecked culture of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct inside the Dallas Mavericks‘ organization, new, recent, allegations have been levied.
Jessica Luther, the reporter who penned the original Sports Illustrated expose published a new piece today, focused on the story of an anonymous woman given the pseudonym “Sarah.” She alleges that she was assaulted Tony Ronzone, the Mavericks’ Director of Player Personnel, in a Las Vegas hotel room during NBA Summer League in 2019. Sarah was not a team employee but worked for a well-known basketball camp and basketball charity, and had met Ronzone through acquaintances. The assault occurred after they met and discussed how the Mavericks’ organization might support the charity she worked for.
How did the Dallas Mavericks’ respond to new sexual assault allegations?
While the details of the assault are disturbing, the most troubling part of Luther’s report may be the stunning inaction on the part of the Mavericks. After the initial reporting in 2018, Mark Cuban promised accountability and a top-to-bottom culture change including a new CEO specifically tasked with addressing this. Sarah emailed Mark Cuban directly about her assault in September of 2019, nearly two years after Cuban’s apologies and promises.
The Mavericks did contact Sarah to hear her side of the story but chose to investigate internally, a decision that was apparently very surprising to several lawyers quoted in the Sports Illustrated piece:
Multiple lawyers unaffiliated with the Mavericks situation interviewed by SI were surprised that the team chose to investigate internally. “As a matter of best practices, it was clearly a lapse in judgment to let HR conduct the investigation of these allegations,” says Kim Susser, a New York victims’ rights lawyer who has served as an independent investigator for sexual harassment claims. “And it’s especially shocking given the team’s experience [in 2018], having paid considerably and suffered public scandal over similar allegations. … In addition to the underlying physiological effects of trauma on memory and linear thinking, who asks the question is another factor relevant to how credibility is assessed.”
Since the conclusion of the investigation, the Mavericks’ outside counsel has argued, with Sarah and her lawyers, that Ronzone was not acting in his official capacity with the team during this incident and since Sarah is not a team employee they are not liable. If you’re interested, the Sports Illustrated report covers, in excruciating detail, the twisting and turning the Mavericks have done to try and absolve themselves from responsibility. Unfortunately, there’s probably nothing in there you haven’t heard before.
So much for changing the culture.