A woman who was fired by the company that runs the American Airlines Center — the home of the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars — filed a federal complaint alleging gender, sexual and racial issues in January, the Dallas Morning News reported Thursday. She is now “seeking information” from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about a 2011 “incident involving a noose found in the arena,” according to the report.
Michelle Newsome worked at Arena Operating Co. from 2004 until last March, and claims in the filing that the work environment at the arena was similar to that in the Mavericks’ front office — which has sparked a mass investigation after a Sports Illustrated report detailing a Dallas “corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior,” overseen by former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery.
Newsome filed her suit last year, seeking $13 million from the arena’s operators for “wrongful termination, cultivating a discriminatory environment in the workplace and harassment.”
“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 [arena operators] are very aware of it,” Newsome told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday.
In the petition she filed on Thursday, she “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.”
The noose was reportedly discovered by an Arena Operating Co. employee on Feb. 22, 2011, who said that Cuban saw the noose and disposed of it.
Here’s how that employee, whose name has been redacted from the complaint, recalled the incident:
“Nate Rutkowski (a white male), who was working with the broadcast crew, put a hangman’s noose in a private and dedicated ‘IT closet’ right across from Cuban’s bunker suite on the event level of the AAC. I witnessed the hangman’s noose and took a photo of it with my mobile phone. I alerted various executives of the Dallas Mavericks and AOC, with Cuban eventually seeing the noose. Cuban’s actions indicated for me to not make a big deal of it. Cuban then personally removed the hangman’s noose and threw it in the trash. Cuban offered no apology, sympathy or offer to investigate.
“The next day a cleaning crew was sent into the IT closet to clean it out, remove graffiti, and sanitize it. This was not a common occurrence. As an African-American male, I took the hangman’s noose as a threat of violence against African-Americans. Nate Rutkowski eventually admitted to handling the noose.”
Cuban declined to comment on the issue Thursday. The American Airlines Center’s general manager, Dave Brown, did give a statement to the Dallas Morning News on Thursday.
“All forms of harassment are strictly prohibited and are not tolerated,” Brown said in his statement. “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.”
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