Dallas Mavericks

Lawsuit against American Airlines Center links Mark Cuban to 'noose' incident

A former employee fired by the company that runs American Airlines Center filed a federal complaint alleging gender, sexual and racial issues in January, according to a Dallas Morning News report.

She is now seeking information from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about an incident involving a noose found in the arena.

Michelle Newsom of Dallas worked at Arena Operating Co. from 2004 until March 21, 2017. She claims the work environment at the building that houses the Mavericks and Dallas Stars was similar to the atmosphere in the Mavericks' front office that has spawned a broad investigation into sexual-harassment claims by several former employees.

"The Animal House culture that has been described at the Mavericks' office is very similar to what's going on at American Airlines Center, and they [arena operators] are very aware of it," Newsome told the Dallas Morning News.

The federal complaint was filed in January, but the new information includes an allegation of a black employee finding a noose near Cuban's suite in the arena from 2011.

Cuban declined to comment about the situation on Thursday.

Newsome has retained the law firm of Clouse Dunn LLP. Using another law firm, she filed suit last year seeking $13 million from the arena's operators for wrongful termination, cultivating a discriminatory environment in the workplace and harassment.

That action is ongoing, attorney Rogge Dunn told reporters.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint from January states Newsome was terminated because she was not at 75 percent of the sales goals through the fiscal year. But she claims the fiscal year had one quarter of the calendar remaining.

A petition filed on Thursday states Newsome "is seeking information regarding Cuban's knowledge of and/or passive or active encouragement of [or conspiracy regarding] sexual harassment and race discrimination that has been occurring at AAC and adversely affecting employees."

At least five people filed lawsuits in the early 2000s alleging racial discrimination and a hostile work environment. All of those cases were ultimately dismissed.

Here is part of AAC chief operating officer and general manager Dave Brown’s statement from Thursday: "All forms of harassment are strictly prohibited and are not tolerated. We investigate and respond promptly to any allegation of inappropriate conduct. As part of our commitment to a harassment-free work place, Arena Operating Company provides resources and training for employees. It has long been our policy to protect the privacy rights of Arena Operating Company employees and we cannot respond to any specific allegations."

According to reports, the noose was discovered by a man who remains employed by AOC. That person said in a legal declaration that Cuban saw the noose in the closet, took possession of it and disposed of it. The person's name was redacted from the document.

However, Thursday's affidavit stated that Newsome was only told that Cuban disposed of the noose and that no actual visual confirmation was available. The incident is alleged to have happened Feb. 22, 2011, the day before a Mavericks home game.

The Mavericks hired Tarsha LaCour and Cynthia "Cyndee" Wales this week to serve on the executive leadership team and have officially launched the initial 100-Day Plan to improve the culture of the organization.

LaCour will serve as senior vice president of human resources. Wales has accepted the newly created position of chief ethics and compliance officer.

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