On Wednesday, a 43-page report investigating the workplace culture of the Dallas Mavericks was released: It found rampant sexual harassment allegations against former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery and two domestic violence incidents involving former team website writer Earl K. Sneed. In response, owner Mark Cuban agreed to pay $10 million to women’s groups, and the NBA also created a series of rules Dallas must adhere to moving forward.
The $10 million – which was four times the amount ($2.5 million) the NBA is able to fine someone under its constitution and by-laws – will be given to “organizations that are committed to supporting the leadership and development of women in the sports industry and combating domestic violence.” Those organizations will be selected by a committee of several members, including Cuban, team CEO Cynthia Marshall and Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs.
In addition, the Mavericks will have to give the NBA’s league office quarterly reports on its progress toward meeting and implementing the recommendations included in the report. They include: immediately reporting to the league office any instances or allegations of significant misconduct by any employee; continually enhancing and updating annual “Respect in the Workplace” training for all staff, including ownership; and implementing a program to train all staff, including ownership, on issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
The report came from an investigation by former Manhattan district attorney Evan Krutoy and former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram. That investigation included 215 interviews with current and former Mavericks employees who worked for the team during the past two decades and from the evaluation of more than 1.6 million documents, including emails and other electronic documents.
“This investigation has substantiated numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct within the Mavericks organization over a period spanning almost twenty years,” the report said.
It stemmed from accusations made in a Sports Illustrated story, which detailed more than a decade of abuses by authority figures within the Mavericks. The article alleged Ussery, who served as team president from 2000 through 2015, had a host of offenses, including repeatedly asking another to have sex with him and promising he’d leave his wife if she did.
It also detailed the way the Mavericks handled multiple domestic assault allegations against Sneed, a writer who worked for the Mavericks website until he was dismissed shortly before the article was published. One of those assault allegations involved another Mavericks employee. In a statement issued before the story came out, Dallas said Sneed — who was only referred to as “an employee” — had “misled the organization about a prior domestic violence incident.”
“Oh, it was horrible,” Cuban said of the message that was sent to his female employees by keeping Sneed employed for as long as he did. “Again, I have no excuse. I should have done better. I could have done better. I’ve learned. There’s just no other way to put it.”
The Mavericks also fired Buddy Pittman, the team’s human resources director. The article said Pittman made clear his social and religious beliefs, and that made it difficult for him to be approached, according to both male and female employees.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the investigation would be wrapped up by Aug. 1 during his annual news conference following the conclusion of the league’s summer Board of Governors meetings in Las Vegas in July, but it wound up taking nearly an extra two months to complete the investigation into the nearly two decades Cuban has owned the franchise.
Cuban was not given any kind of suspension, nor were the Mavericks hit with any kind of basketball-related penalty. Cuban said in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols Wednesday afternoon that Silver never discussed the possibility of selling the team with him, and that he never considered it throughout the course of the past several months.
“No,” Cuban said. “I don’t run away from my mistakes.”
He also said his goal is to make the Mavericks into an example for how organizations can positively react to situations such as these in the future.
“I think more important than the money is the example we can set,” Cuban said. “There hasn’t been anybody who has had to go through this and set the tone on what the right way to respond and the right thing to do.
In the interview with ESPN, Cuban took blame for what happened within his organization, though the investigation confirmed he was unaware of what was happening.
“We did a lot of things wrong, and I wasn’t there to oversee him,” Cuban said. “Everybody has every reason to question me, but I wasn’t there. That was my fault.”