Dallas Mavericks director of player personnel Tony Ronzone has been accused of sexual assault, according to Sports Illustrated.
Ronzone allegedly kissed, groped and made unwanted sexual advances toward a woman in a Las Vegas hotel room in July 2019. That woman — who SI refers to as “Sarah,” which is not her real name — detailed her story to Sports Illustrated after the team failed to take action against Ronzone.
The alleged incident occurred when Ronzone was in Las Vegas for the Summer League. Ronzone — who originally met Sarah a year earlier — reportedly invited Sarah to dinner with another coworker. After having post-dinner drinks at the bar in the Venetian, Ronzone told Sarah to come to his hotel room to pick up Mavericks tickets. Sarah — who runs a nonprofit focused on basketball — was hoping the Mavericks would provide her nonprofit with financial help and a stamp of approval.
Sarah said she eventually agreed to go to Ronzone’s room, where the alleged assault took place.
In the moments following the assault, Sarah contacted an acquaintance who works as a “security consultant for an NBA team,” according to SI. Sarah detailed the incident to that acquaintance, who told Sarah to contact the police and file a report, but she declined to file a report with law enforcement.
In the days following the alleged assault, Sarah and Ronzone continued to communicate over text message after Sarah believed she dropped her credit card and ID while in Ronzone’s room. Ronzone again asked Sarah to come to his room, and Sarah responded by saying she wasn’t interested in “hooking up.” Sarah also joked about blackmailing Ronzone, a comment Ronzone’s lawyers have used against her.
Mavericks vowed to be better after 2018 accusations
In September 2019, Sarah wrote an email to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban detailing the encounter with Ronzone. Cuban sent the email to Cynthia Wales, who was hired as a chief ethics and compliance officer to fix the Mavericks’ workplace culture following a Sports Illustrated report from 2018 that detailed multiple instances of sexual assault, harassment and inappropriate behavior within the Mavericks’ organization.
After that report, Cuban apologized for not recognizing the issue and vowed to do better moving forward. The NBA fined Cuban $10 million. The league also made a number of recommendations to the Mavericks aimed at improving the team’s culture. The NBA made those same recommendations to every team.
Wales — who no longer works for the Mavericks — called Sarah to discuss the allegations. Sarah believed Wales showed genuine interest in helping her initially, but grew suspicious when Wales started questioning her story.
Mavericks believe allegations can not be supported
Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall — who was also brought in to change the team’s culture — called for the team to investigate the incident. The Mavericks found “no evidence presented of sexual assault,” according to Marshall. Ronzone remains employed by the team.
Marshall told Sports Illustrated, “Based on the available evidence, based on what was presented to us it was determined that there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations.”
Sarah took issue with that, saying the Mavericks have not viewed five sworn declarations from people who will support her story. Lawyers from each side disagree over why those declarations were not viewed by the team. Sarah’s lawyers say the Mavericks would not sign an NDA. The team’s lawyers believe the conditions in the NDA were not acceptable.
Mavericks issue statement condemning Sports Illustrated’s report
The signed declarations became an even bigger sticking point Wednesday, as the Mavericks issued a statement condemning Sports Illustrated’s report.
The Mavericks on Wednesday issued a lenghty statement in response to a Sports Illustrated report detailing a new sexual assault allegation against a front-office executive, saying they are "appalled" it would be published without the team receiving "all of the purpoted evidence" pic.twitter.com/hNkValMFhF
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 29, 2020
That statement alleges the team was not aware of the declarations until Sarah spoke to Sports Illustrated. The Mavericks believe Sarah’s lawyers never intended to give the declarations to the team unless the Mavericks were willing to discuss a settlement. The team claims Sarah continued asking the Mavericks for larger sums of money, which is mentioned in Sports Illustrated’s report. Sarah reportedly told her lawyer she didn’t care about making money.
The Mavericks then criticized Sports Illustrated’s reporting, claiming the story was “reported inaccurately.” The Mavericks listed off seven points, many of which — including the Mavericks claiming Sarah wanted money and changed her story — were mentioned in Sports Illustrated’s article.
The Mavericks also said the internal investigation on the matter was “closed pending further evidence emerging.” The team stated it stands by its zero tolerance policy regarding sexual assault, domestic violence and inappropriate behavior within the organization.
Later on Wednesday, Sports Illustrated issued its own statement, standing by the reporting in its story. The publication accused the Mavericks of “victim-blaming” and twisting the narrative.
A statement from Sports Illustrated: pic.twitter.com/II8DOu9tdL
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 29, 2020
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