Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
The Dallas Mavericks reportedly failed to properly investigate a sexual assault allegation made against director of player personnel Tony Ronzone in 2019, according to an investigation by Sports Illustrated’s Jessica Luther and John Wertheim.
According to the report, a woman (who is called “Sarah” in the piece) said Ronzone forcibly pinned her to the bed, kissed her, placed her hand on his crotch and attempted to put his hand down her pants against her will in his Las Vegas hotel room.
Ronzone and the woman were in Las Vegas for the 2019 NBA Summer League. The woman said she went to Ronzone’s hotel room because he promised her game tickets.
Luther and Wertheim spoke to multiple people who were willing to give the Mavericks sworn affidavits, corroborating the woman told them a similar story to the one she told the team. However, the Mavericks did not respond to emails offering the opportunity to review those statements.
A lawyer representing the Mavericks said the accuser “refused to provide those declarations to the Mavericks and to us unless certain conditions were agreed upon—conditions that went well beyond protecting the identity of the individuals who executed those affidavits or statements.”
In a statement provided to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Mavericks accused Sports Illustrated of “one-sided, incomplete and sensational” journalism. The team pushed back on several accusations made in the piece, claimed the woman was seeking only money and said its investigation is closed until further “credible evidence” emerges:
Marc Stein @TheSteinLine
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” https://t.co/hNkValMFhF
According to emails provided to Sports Illustrated, the woman’s lawyers required the team to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect the identities of the individuals in order to review the affidavits.
One person who signed a sworn statement is a “former Homeland Security federal agent who is now a security consultant for an NBA team in the Eastern Conference.” The woman called him immediately after leaving Ronzone’s room and told him what happened.
“I work with victims all the time,” he told SI. “I have no reason not to believe her.”
Ronzone declined to comment and forwarded questions to his attorney, who said the allegation was “meritless” and suggested the woman’s husband should have picked up the tickets.
“Her claims are meritless, her allegations change every month, and we are unclear on how or why her husband, who was there with her, did not come by to get the tickets,” attorney Mark Baute said.
The Mavericks were accused of having a toxic organizational culture in 2018, with several women accusing team officials of sexual harassment and misconduct. Owner Mark Cuban apologized for not recognizing the organization’s problems at the time and promised a zero-tolerance policy for future transgressions.
The Mavericks say they found no evidence corroborating the woman’s accusations against Ronzone.