DALLAS (CN) – A black female former employee of the Dallas Mavericks’ arena demanded Thursday the deposition of team owner Mark Cuban, claiming he knew of and tried to “sweep under the rug” an incident where a noose was displayed in the office.
Michelle Newsome filed the pre-suit petition for a deposition in Dallas County District Court, seeking information about what Cuban may know regarding several hostile workplace allegations that have been made against the Mavericks’ front office.
Cuban has endured harsh criticism since February when Sports Illustrated published claims by current and former front office employees of a corrosive and misogynist work environment where race and sex discrimination is allegedly rampant. Former team president and chief executive officer Terdema Ussery was in particular accused in the story of being a serial sexual harasser, who would allegedly asking females employees for sex several times.
Newsome’s petition is not a lawsuit against Cuban or the Mavericks, meaning civil claims have yet to be filed against either. She worked as a sales executive for 13 years at the American Airlines Center arena and says she generated over $50 million in sales during her time there. She claims she endured years of discrimination and retaliation based on her age, race and gender that resulted in her being fired in March 2017.
Newsome claims that a coworker hung up a noose in the office during Black History Month in 2011, something she considered a threat of violence.
“Newsome was told that Cuban personally removed the Hangman’s Noose and threw it away,” the 30-page petition states. “Newsome and the African-American employee who found the Hangman’s Noose alerted Human Resources about the Hangman’s Noose, but no company-wide sensitivity training, no company-wide announcement, and no-company-wide counseling occurred as a result of the Hangman’s Noose.”
Newsome wants to ask Cuban how seriously he and the Mavericks take “acts of racial discrimination and intimidation” and whether he saw her as a trouble-maker.
Newsome’s attorney, Rogge Dunn, of Dallas, told Courthouse News on Thursday his client is still upset about being fired for “what she thought was standing up for herself,” saying the matter is “very disturbing and upsetting.”
Dunn cited allegations made in a sworn affidavit by an unidentified current AAC employee that Cuban “wanted to shut down and chill” any talk of the noose incident.
“Cuban then personally removed the hangman’s noose and threw it in the trash,” the affidavit states. “Cuban offered no apology, sympathy, or offer to investigate.”
Dunn said most employers with good human resources practices would have required company-wide sensitivity training and that not ordering it shows lack of caring about the incident. He said he is amazed the unidentified employee in the affidavit did not say Cuban “told black employees ‘not on our watch’ is this going to happen.”
The affidavit is admissible in court due to an earlier legal declaration, Dunn added. He said the white employee who allegedly left the noose was not disciplined and is still employed by the arena.
“I had previously emailed Mr. Cuban requesting that he produced documents and sit for an interview and he did not respond,” Dunn said. “When I wrote Robert Hart, general counsel of the Dallas Mavericks and made the same request, he refused to provide documents and threatened to take legal action against Ms. Newsome.”
Mavericks officials did not immediately respond to an email message requesting comment Thursday evening. Cuban quickly responded to the SI report in February, announcing an independent investigation into the harassment claims. He also took sole responsibility for a decision to keep Mavs.com reporter Earl K. Sneed on staff after two separate domestic violence allegations were made against him. Firing Sneed in advance of the SI story, Cuban told ESPN that not firing him earlier was a “horrible mistake in hindsight.”