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Fired employee sues NBA team, accuses organization of racism against white workers

A former team employee has sued the Atlanta Hawks, alleging discrimination against white employees. (Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

A former employee of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team has sued, claiming she was fired after complaining about discrimination against white employees, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

What’s the story?

Margo Kline is a white woman who worked in the social responsibility department as a community development coordinator for the Hawks for five years.

She was fired in March 2017, less than a month after she received a written warning for her conduct and performance.

Her lawsuit is targeted at David Lee, the Hawks’ director of external affairs, a black man, who she accuses of promoting a “culture of discrimination against white people, especially white women," according to the AJC.

What are the specifics?

Kline says Lee would exclude white employees, joke about “white culture,” and promote black people who (in Kline’s opinion) were less qualified than white people.

Kline also said her complaints about discrimination were ignored, her work unfairly scrutinized, her efforts impeded, and that she was isolated from white coworkers who were allegedly told not to speak with Kline or they’d lose their jobs.

What does she want?

Kline is seeking unspecified punitive damages and a trial jury. She filed an employment discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a notice of her right to sue in December.

What have the Hawks said?

The team released a statement to the AJC:

“We take all claims of discrimination seriously and have performed a thorough review of these baseless claims. The case was quickly dismissed at the EEOC level. We deny these claims and will vigorously defend against them.”

NBA culture issues?

This lawsuit against the Hawks comes not long after the Dallas Mavericks were accused in an in-depth report of harboring an "Animal House" culture of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse, with issues going as far up the chain as current team owner Mark Cuban and former team president Terdema Ussery.

The Hawks have also had race-based issues in the past, when former general manager Danny Ferry was placed on indefinite leave for reading a report that said one player “has a little African in him” and was “like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back. Ferry later resigned.

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