A bombshell investigation from Sports Illustrated reveals a feral and misogynistic culture of molestation, toxicity, abuse and traumatization of Dallas Mavericks female employess that lasted for years. Absent any intervention by celebrity owner Mark Cuban, the abuse continued in its rawest form. Comments. Inuendoes. Unwanted touching. Harrassment. It is a devastating portrait of toxic male behavior institutionalized by the Mavericks for their greater masculine good. The victims were helpless women who were in a vulnerable position of having a job they wanted to keep but having a boss who is a predator. They had to eventually quit for their own mental health and take jobs elsewhere to avoid the abuse and save what was left of their sanity.
Regardless of his statement of shock or rationalization denials, Mark Cuban is accountable. This is his team as he likes to remind us. He helped create this contemptuous culture. His excuse of he didn’t know what was going on is tone deaf. Why didn’t he know? Why was he, if you believe his denials, distanced from the Mavericks working culture where women were tortured with abuse by their colleagues? In most professional organizations, employees turn to HR as a savior. But even that was a place of hostility for the women who worked for the Mavs. Now Cuban is on the hot seat. What happens now?
Sports Illustrated revealed:
The Mavericks CEO and Team President, Terdema Ussery, asked a female employee about weekend plans. She hedged. He then asked her was she going to have a gang bang that weekend. She said no. He disagreed. He said, “No. You’re definitely getting gang banged.” Let’s be clear what he was saying to her. In a professional setting, he told her she was going to get raped as if rape was aspirational entertainment. That was her ignominious introduction to her boss and set the tone. Ironically, before she took the job, she had been warned about the CEO, a Princeton grad and bright star in NBA circles, on the fast track for a NBA front office job. But female employees told her to not be alone in the elevator with him. Ironically, or karma- you pick- when Ussery left the Mavericks in 2015 for Under Armour, he was in the elevator with a woman where he was sexually inappropriate. The Under Armour employee went to HR and that was that for him at Under Armour.
The Sports Illustrated investigation (Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther, reporters) noted that several woman were on the receiving end of Ussery’s sick toxicity for years. He propositioned them for sex and even offered to leave his wife. He was accused of public fondling of employees against their will. SI talked to a dozen former employees about their experiences. A male Mavs employee was said to have watched pornography at his desk during working hours. Women didn’t feel safe and their male bosses, including Cuban, didn’t create an atmosphere to legitimize safety, as if vulnerability was the goal.
The Head of Human Resources, Buddy Pittman, was a political conservative and shared his positions about homosexuality and abortion with the employees as his personal line in the sand but then turned a blind eye to female harrasssment. Either he didn’t care. Or, he didn’t care. So the abused women began keeping a diary.
SI tells the story of Earl Sneed who worked on the Mavs website. During the season he got into a physical altercation with his girlfriend. He sat on her, slapped her, threatened her and broke her wrist. Two months later, he was arrested. His arrest meant he couldn’t enter Canada who has restrictions on who can enter the country; so his job was affected. That didn’t matter to the Mavs. Later, Sneed began dating a Mavs employee. He hit her in the face. That didn’t stop him from hosting “Mavs Insider” television show.
(Once SI’s investigation went public, Pittman and Sneed were fired).
The employees of the Mavericks are split. Some say Cuban wasn’t around. Others say that he is a hands on owner. He knew the immoral men he was hiring. Complicating Cuban’s complicity is the fact that he likes to attach himself to the narrative of “hands on owner.” Hands on means in every capacity. Hands on means you are a stakeholder in the office culture. Hands on means you demand that every person feels safe and listened to and respected.
After the SI story broke Mark Cuban had this to say.
“I want to deal with this issue. I mean obviously there’s a problem in the Mavericks organization and we’ve got to fix it. It’s not something that’s acceptable. I’m embarrassed to be honest with you.”
His embarrassment is a product of his privilege. He can be the one embarrassed because he wasn’t the one abused. There’s not much empathy for the victims in Cuban’s statement. No I’m sorry. No I failed you as the leader of this organization. As we’ve seen in Hollywood and journalism and even in the White House, sexual violence and abuse is ground zero for men backtracking with a bunch of apologies. The bottom line is assault against women means you are suddenly villainized in this hyperawareness. Rob Porter could not get a complete security clearance from the FBI for his White House job because he beat up his two wives and eventually he had to resign. The days of men harrassing and intimidating women in the workplace for their own lacsivious bullying pleasure and then profiting from it has come to an end. The NBA is hypersenstive because they have a woman owner in Jeanie Buss, a woman who is head of the Players Union, Michele Roberts, and a large female fan base.
The NBA had this to say:
“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 committment of the NBA and its teams to foster safe, respectable and welcoming workplaces for all employees. Such behavior is completely unacceptable and we will closely monitor the independent investigation into this matter.”
The most salient piece of the despicable behavior curated by Sports Illustrated is that no one in the Mavericks upper echelon denied the findings or said the Mavs workplace wasn’t hostile to women. No one. No one said it wasn’t true.