Last month, a devastating report from Sports Illustrated dropped the #MeToo movement squarely in the laps of the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban.
The story was based on accusations by former and current Mavericks employees, many of whom were women who requested not to be identified, and events already on the record. Cuban, the team and the league vowed action, but now a woman who says she was subjected to sexual harassment has stepped forward, putting her name and face on the workplace problem because, she wrote on SI.com, “I’m still not sure the Mavericks get it.”
Her name is Melissa Weishaupt and, according to her LinkedIn profile, she was a marketing manager for the team from November 2010 to June 2014. She was, she wrote, one of a number of women harassed by former team president Terdema Ussery, who spent 18 years with the franchise. SI’s investigation also revealed that Earl Sneed, a website reporter, had twice been accused of sexual assault while working for the team and entered a guilty plea in a case that was dismissed when he fulfilled the plea deal’s conditions. Sneed no longer works for the Mavs, and Cuban told SI that Human Resources Director Buddy Pittman had also been fired.
Cuban explained after the story broke that he ran the franchise’s basketball side, not its business side, a claim that Weishaupt rejected as she called out Cuban and explained why she was putting her name to the story.
“Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. You own 100 percent of the team, Mark,” she wrote. “The buck stops with you. When I worked on the Mavs’ business side, all marketing, promotional and broadcasting decisions went through you. Nothing was decided without your approval.
“I am using my name because I am convinced that Cuban still doesn’t recognize the culture he’s helped create or the plight of the women who still work for him. From where I sit, Mark’s response was to rush in like some white knight in a T-shirt and jeans and yell, ‘Don’t worry, ladies of the Mavs, I will help you with paid counseling and a hotline you can call!’
“Now you want to help? We are not fragile flowers. We don’t long for counseling. (As for that hotline: I’ve spoken with a dozen current and former team employees; we have no idea what this is or how to find it.) We want equitable pay. We need to be treated with respect. When deserved, we ought to be given the same promotions as our male counterparts.”
Dirk Nowitzki and Coach Rick Carlisle were supportive immediately after the story broke and, Weishaupt wrote, “They didn’t duck questions; they didn’t blame the victims. Accused of nothing, they still recognized they represented their organization.”
Cuban called the situation “wrong” and “abhorrent” last month, telling SI, “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.”
Weishaupt writes that HR is not always “a safe haven. … At the Mavericks — and I’m sure elsewhere — HR was there to protect management, not employees.”
The Mavericks hired an outside law firm to conduct “a thorough and independent investigation” into what SI described as a “corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior.”
Cuban told SI that he intends to deal with the matter. “I mean, this is, obviously there’s a problem in the Mavericks organization and we’ve got to fix it. That’s it. And we’re going to take every step. It’s not something we tolerate. I don’t want it. It’s not something that’s acceptable.
“I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you, that it happened under my ownership, and it needs to be fixed. Period. End of story.”
In the meantime, Weishaupt is taking action.
“Yes, I was harassed while I worked for the Mavericks. But I am using my name now because I will never say that I am a victim. I am tougher. I am wiser. I am my own advocate.”
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