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Trail Blazers launch investigation of president Neil Olshey over workplace conduct

The Portland Trail Blazers are investigating team president Neil Olshey for workplace misconduct. (Craig Mitchelldyer/AP)

The Portland Trail Blazers launched an independent investigation of team president Neil Olshey over alleged workplace misconduct, according to multiple people with knowledge of the investigation.

Investigators have sought answers from employees regarding Olshey’s workplace demeanor and the organization’s handling of the 2020 death of a video assistant, among other topics. The Athletic and Yahoo Sports first reported the investigation, which the Blazers confirmed, without naming Olshey, in a statement Saturday.

“The Portland Trail Blazers organization was recently notified of concerns around workplace environment by non-player personnel at the practice facility,” the team’s statement read. “In response, we immediately engaged O’Melveny & Myers, an outside firm with significant expertise in this area, to conduct a full, fair and independent review into these concerns and will take appropriate action based on its outcome. While we cannot comment on this pending matter, we are committed to continuing to build an organization that positively impacts our colleagues, communities and the world in which we live and play.”

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Olshey, 56, who was hired by the Blazers in 2012 and received a multiyear contract extension in 2019, has yet to comment on the investigation. During his tenure, Portland has made the playoffs eight straight years, reaching the Western Conference finals in 2019 for the first time since 2000.

But Olshey, who has often struck a confrontational tone with reporters in public, has faced criticism in recent months. His decision to hire Chauncey Billups as coach in June prompted a local backlash in light of a 1997 sexual assault allegation against Billups. Subsequent reporting revealed that the Blazers had not contacted Billups’s accuser as part of their vetting process and that the organization cut ties with a private investigator involved in the Billups investigation after it was revealed that he had shared pornographic material on Twitter.

In October, the Blazers placed assistant coach Milt Palacio, a new member of Billups’s staff, on leave after federal prosecutors charged him and 17 other former NBA players with defrauding the league’s retirement health-care plan.

Portland’s coaching search process was one of several tension points with franchise star Damian Lillard, who also expressed dissatisfaction with Portland’s ability to improve its roster under Olshey. While Lillard denied that he had made a trade request in July and then recommitted to the Blazers, his future in Portland has remained a major story line this season. The Blazers are 4-5 entering Saturday, with the 31-year-old Lillard averaging a career-low 17.8 points per game.

Blazers owner Jody Allen, who inherited control of the team following the 2018 death of her billionaire brother, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, will be responsible for the organization’s response to the investigation’s findings. Paul and Jody Allen settled a lawsuit in 2013 following allegations that Jody Allen sexually harassed her bodyguards, although her attorney denied those charges at the time.

Portland’s investigation comes days after the NBA announced it would investigate Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver in response to an ESPN report that included allegations of racist and misogynist language and a toxic work environment.

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