A former employee of the Atlanta Hawks is now suing the team, claiming she was discriminated against — and ultimately fired — because she was white and because she was a woman.
According to a lawsuit obtained by The Blast, Margo Kline says she worked for the Atlanta Hawks from June 2012 through March 13, 2017. She was employed as a Community Development Coordinator in the team’s Corporate Social Responsibility Department.
Kline claims that in 2014, a man named David Lee (who is African American) was given a leadership position over the department she worked in. Kline claims that Lee “promoted a culture of discrimination against white individuals.” She adds that Lee further discriminated against her because she is a woman.
Among Lee’s alleged discriminatory actions, Kline alleges:
- being dismissive and exclusionary toward white employees, especially white females, including Plaintiff
- making jokes about white culture
- making it clear that he wanted to hire black individuals and did not want to hire white females for positions opening up in his department
- expecting and requiring more of white individuals, especially white females, than black individuals in the department
- promoting and hiring less qualified black individuals over white individuals, especially white females
- more readily and quickly offering raises and promotions to black individuals and males
Kline claims she complained about Lee’s behavior, “but the Hawks did not take action to stop the discrimination.”
After her complaints, Kline claims she was subjected to retaliation and continued discrimination. She claims employees in her department began to treat her “with contempt, negativity, and a lack of respect.”
Kline claims in February of last year, she met with a woman Nzinga Shaw, the Hawks’ Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (Shaw is African America). In her meeting, Kline says she complained about Lee and also stated that the team’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, of which Kline was a member, was hypocritical.
A few weeks later, Kline says she was written up for “ongoing deficiencies in her conduct and/or performance” despite, she claims, having never been disciplined about her performance before. The write-up was categorized as a “Final Written Warning.”
Three weeks later, Kline claims she was fired by the Atlanta Hawks.
Kline is suing for racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She is seeking unspecified damages.
We reached out to the Atlanta Hawks for comment — so far, no word back.
The Hawks have a history with racial issues. In 2017, the team was sued by a former security manager who accused them of firing him after he brought up an alleged racist system of discrimination. The suit alleged the team made black celebrities go through much stricter security checks before entering the venue than white celebrities.
They denied all the allegations and the suit is ongoing.
In 2015, the team’s general manager, Danny Ferry, had to step down from his role after an audio recording was leaked of him making racially insensitive comments about Luol Deng.