The Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday labeled a Sports Illustrated story about a sexual assault allegation against one of the team's top basketball executives and the ensuing internal investigation a "one-sided, incomplete and sensational form of journalism, with its inaccuracies, mischaracterizations and omissions."
Sports Illustrated reported that a woman accused Mavericks director of player personnel Tony Ronzone of forcing himself on her in his Las Vegas hotel room during the NBA's annual summer league in July 2019. According to the report, the woman accuses Ronzone, 55, of forcibly kissing her, groping her, pinning her on a bed and placing her hand on his crotch after inviting her to his hotel to give her summer league tickets.
Mark Baute, Ronzone's attorney, told Sports Illustrated via email that the woman's "claims are meritless." Baute's statement to Sports Illustrated concluded, "If any lawsuit is ever filed, we look forward to proving Mr. Ronzone's innocence."
The woman first notified the organization of the accusations in an email to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in September, leading to an internal investigation overseen by CEO Cynthia Marshall, who was hired by Cuban to change the culture of the organization after a 2018 Sports Illustrated report detailed widespread inappropriate sexual behavior and misogyny in the franchise's business operations.
Marshall told Sports Illustrated that Ronzone remains in his role with the team because "there was no evidence presented of sexual assault."
The statement released by the team Wednesday said there was a "thorough investigation that spanned 6 months and involved 3 seasoned investigators, concluding with the [senior vice president of human relations] flying to Las Vegas to get promised information that was never provided."
The information in question consists of sworn statements from multiple people the woman spoke to in the direct aftermath of the alleged incident with Ronzone. This, Sports Illustrated reported, included an acquaintance who is a former Homeland Security federal agent and is now a security consultant for an Eastern Conference team. They were contacted minutes after the woman left the hotel room, according to the Sports Illustrated report.
Sports Illustrated, citing emails the media outlet viewed, reported that the woman's attorneys offered lawyers working for the Mavericks access to the sworn statements, contingent upon the team agreeing to a nondisclosure agreement.
"During the investigation when the alleged victim directly spoke with the Mavs, she never mentioned the sworn declarations," the Mavericks' statement read, in part. "To the Mavs' knowledge these sworn statements first surfaced after she engaged Sports Illustrated and the Bloom firm [representing the woman]. It is abundantly clear from the communications between the Bloom firm and the alleged victim described in the article that they never intended on giving the Mavs the information unless the Mavs came to the negotiating table to discuss a settlement. If this was truly a matter of establishing her credibility -- particularly in light of the alleged victim's contemporaneous text messages, some of which were cited in the article -- the alleged victim or her attorneys could have sent the redacted sworn affidavits without strings attached."
The Mavericks' statement also specified what the team said were several inaccuracies, "omissions and mischaracterizations in the article," saying that the woman did not file a police report despite the team's encouragement, that the woman's story changed every time the team spoke with her, and that the Sports Illustrated report "omitted critical communication, including several text messages, between the alleged victim and the alleged accuser."
"The Mavs have always responded immediately every time the alleged victim has reached out during and after the formal investigation process," the team's statement read. "The Mavs have always been in pursuit of the truth. The formal investigation is currently closed pending further credible evidence emerging and the zero-tolerance policy remains."