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Portland Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen ‘refused to talk’ to Damian Lillard, accused of fostering ‘toxic’ environment

Matt Johnson
Portland Trail Blazers, Jody Allen, Damian Lillard
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen recently pushed back against reports that either her NBA team or the Seattle Seahawks are for sale. While a deal might not be imminent, it seems many in the Blazers’ organization might be wishing for it to happen.

Jody inherited the team from her brother Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who passed away at the age of 65 in 2018. She assumed control of the team immediately after and has pushed back against Nike executive Phil Knight’s attempt to buy Portland’s NBA franchise.

Related: Phil Knight made $2 billion offer to buy Portland Trail Blazers

Paul Allen’s will specifically states that the Trail Blazers and Seahawks are to be put up for sale after his death, with the profits going towards charities he cared about. While Jody still intends to follow through on her brother’s wishes, she has preached patience and indicated deals could take years to happen.

However, one of the richest owners in American sports is now facing criticism from a former executive with some internal complaints also coming from inside the organization.

Jody Allen ignored communication from Damian Lillard

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Trail Blazers have made significant changes to their roster in recent months. From tearing down the roster around All-Star point guard Damian Lillard to a series of polarizing moves this summer. It’s all seemingly come without significant input from the face of the franchise.

Lillard, who has expressed loyalty to the organization for years, has changed his tone in recent weeks. The NBA star recently wrote on social media that “loyalty has an expiration date” and he has not committed to signing the team’s contract proposal that would make him one of the highest paid NBA players.

Related: Damian Lillard open to trade if Portland Trail Blazers want it

It’s already a concerning development for a fan base that likely wants Lillard to finish his career in Portland. Just as troubling is a report from the New York Post with one team official detailing how Jody Allen froze out Lillard’s attempts to communicate with her.

“Damian wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Jody about the team and she didn’t return his call. Then he tried to email her. Eventually she just never responded and put him in touch with Bert. When you own a team, there are critical key decisions to make and you should be the one involved in making the decisions.”

Portland Trail Blazers source on Jody Allen ignoring Damian Lillard

In an era with NBA stars having more power than ever, a franchise owner allegedly refusing to listen to one of the most important players in team history is alarming. It’s especially problematic for a small-market club that struggles to attract top talent.

However, the New York Post goes on to indicate that this could seemingly be a pattern of behavior from Allen since she took over the franchise.

Portland Trail Blazers owner accused of ignoring workplace toxicity

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Former Trail Blazers president Larry Miller was the lone source to put his name on the record when talking about Allen. He spent five years in Portland before resigning in July 20212 to become the president of the Jordan Brand, now serving as a top executive at Nike.

Portland fired former team president Neil Olshey in December 2021 after an investigation found he created a toxic workplace with instances of sexual harassment and intimidation. While the blame largely fell on Olshey, Miller believes there was more than enough talk within the organization that Allen should have known about it.

“I heard a number of stories about how badly people felt Neil treated them. It got to a boiling point and it’s something that Jody and Bert should have been well aware of and done something about it.”

Former Portland Trail Blazers executive Larry Miller on workplace issues under Jody Allen

Allen has also faced allegations in her past. Former bodyguards who worked for Allen and her brother filed lawsuits in 2013 alleging sexual harassment, cover-ups and conduct by her company that was ethically bankrupt.

As for more recent accusations, both Miller and sources within the Trail Blazers’ organization said that Allen ignored Lillard and Phil Knight, refusing to speak to them and only referring them to vice-chair Bert Kolde.

While there is a history of allegations suggesting Allen either ignored or was directly involved in workplace misconduct, she remains in full control of the team. Until she decides to sell, likely with support from Kolde, Knight or any other buyer won’t have a shot at the team.