After a seven-month investigation into the workplace culture of the Dallas Mavericks, owner Mark Cuban agreed to donate $10 million to women’s groups, and the NBA has created a series of mandates Dallas must follow moving forward.
Those punishments were announced Wednesday afternoon, in concert with the release of a 43-page report from the 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.
The first sentence of the report’s conclusions summed up its findings, which included exposing 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.
“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.
In the wake of the report, which stemmed from accusations made in a Sports Illustrated story, Cuban agreed to pay 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 – 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.
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 NBA Commissioner Adam 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.
“The goal, even more than the money, is for me to get out there and teach others from my experience.”
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.”
When asked what stood out to him most in his readings of the report, Cuban said it was the pain that his employees experienced.
“It was the same way I felt when I stood in front of Mavs employees for the first time after this came out and I apologized to them,” Cuban said, fighting back tears as he spoke. “I never in my wildest dreams would have believed this was happening.
“The pain people shared with me, the tears that I saw … it hurt. [And] the way I felt was nothing compared to the way they felt.”
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.
The Sports Illustrated story 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.”
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.
“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 fallout from the report has only just begun. But it comes as little surprise that Dallas had no draft picks stripped from it as part of the punishment, or any other basketball-related discipline. The NBA has never levied basketball punishments for non-basketball offenses. It was always unlikely in this instance.
It was also unlikely for Cuban to be placed in a position such as that of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell his team in the wake of racist recordings being released. As long as there were no direct allegations against Cuban that could be corroborated — though Cuban was investigated previously, and not charged, after an alleged sexual assault in Oregon in 2011 — the expectation has been Cuban would be hit with some lesser punishment instead. That included the $2.5 million fine — the maximum amount Silver is allowed to levy, per the league’s bylaws and constitution — and a suspension.
Given the league has been navigating through entirely uncharted waters from the moment Sports Illustrated’s story was released, the punishments levied toward the Mavericks will now serve as the baseline for how the league handles these situations going forward.