Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said allegations of rampant sexual misconduct at the team's workplace were "abhorrent," as the entrepreneur and his NBA franchise come under increased scrutiny after Sports Illustrated's explosive exposé.
Cuban told SI the reports were “all new to me."
“The only awareness I have is because I heard you guys were looking into some things," Cuban said. "...Based off of what I’ve read here, we just fired our HR person. I don’t have any tolerance for what I’ve read."
Cuban said he had not been previously told about any of the accusations and blamed the failure to address the issues on the team's human resources director.
“It’s wrong. It’s abhorrent. It’s not a situation we condone. I can’t tell you how many times, particularly since all this [#MeToo] stuff has been coming out recently I asked our HR director, ‘Do we have a problem? Do we have any issues I have to be aware of?’ And the answer was 'No,'” Cuban said.
Mark Cuban called the report by Sports Illustrated “abhorrent.” (Reuters)
The SI article published Tuesday alleged misogynistic behavior by several male front office employees -- including ex-Mavericks’ CEO and president Terdema Ussery.
“It was a real life ‘Animal House,’” a former employee told SI. “And I only say ‘was’ because I’m not there anymore. I’m sure it’s still going on.”
Despite Cuban’s claims he had no knowledge of the “corrosive workplace culture of the Dallas Mavericks,” a few employees told Sports Illustrated the owner knew but turned a blind eye.
“Of course Mark knew [about the instances of harassment and assault]. Everyone knew,” one employee said.
One woman, who alleged she endured sexual harassment while working in the Mavericks workplace, said she believed Cuban “turned a blind eye” because the revenue continued to roll in while Ussery worked with the team.
A source told Sports Illustrated the office had a “locker room culture,” yet the “real locker room,” filled with the team’s players, always treated the employees with respect.
“I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue…they always knew how to treat people. Then I'd go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete s--- show. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk,” the source said.
A few women, who asked not to be named, told SI that Ussery's issues were well known among women in the office.
One woman said Ussery repeatedly told her she was “getting gang-banged” during the weekend while others said the CEO put his hand on their thighs during meetings and propositioned them for sex.
One employee said a friend told her to “watch out for the president [Ussery]” and not to get “trapped in an elevator with him”
Another woman said she left her job due to Ussery’s alleged lewd behavior after more than ten years in sales with the Mavericks.
The president was investigated in 1998 by the team for alleged inappropriate behavior after a few females workers complained about his conduct. Following the investigation, the Mavericks updated the employee handbooks and hired a new person to run human resources.
But Ussery remained with the team, and even had his contract extended for three years, eventually leaving the team in 2014.
“I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me,” Ussery told SI in a statement. “During my career with the Mavericks, I have strived to conduct myself with character, integrity and empathy for others."
Mavs.com beat writer Earl K. Sneed was also named in the SI investigation. Sneed had previously been arrested for assault and was accused of beating his girlfriend. He plead guilty in 2012 to “misdemeanor charges of family violence assault and interference with emergency request.”
Despite the arrest, Sneed continued in his job -- though he could not travel across the border to Canada to cover games against the Toronto Raptors due to his assault record.
Sources told SI that Sneed began dating a woman in the workplace and allegedly had a violent altercation after which the woman was left with a swollen face.
The woman in question told SI she was only told of Sneed’s arrest record when she reported him to human resources.
“He shouldn’t have a job there,” she said.
Employees said Mark Cuban turned a blind eye to the allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace. (Reuters)
Following the report, Cuban said he suspended Sneed and fired Buddy Pittman, the head of human resources for the Mavericks. Following the article’s publication, the team announced Sneed was fired.
The Associated Press reported the team hired an outside counsel to probe the alleged inappropriate behavior.
Following the report, the NBA released a statement.
“The Dallas Mavericks have informed us of the allegations involving former team president Terdema Ussery and Mavs.com writer Earl Sneed. This alleged conduct runs counter to the steadfast commitment of the NBA and its teams to foster safe, respectful and welcoming workplaces for all employees. Such behavior is completely unacceptable and we will closely monitor the independent investigation into this matter,” NBA Executive Vice President of Communications Mike Bass wrote in a statement.