Report: Dallas Mavericks' Hostile Workplace an 'Open Secret'

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2018

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 3:  A shot of the Dallas Mavericks logo at center court before the game against the Charlotte Bobcats on November 3, 2012 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Dallas Mavericks office allegedly was an unsafe work environment for female employees, according to Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther of Sports Illustrated.

After interviews with more than a dozen current and former Mavericks employees across several months, Wertheim and Luther reported the office had "a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior." The negative environment was characterized as an "open secret" by these employees.

Many of the complaints are against former team president Terdema Ussery, who resigned in 2015. Meanwhile, owner Mark Cuban—who was not accused of any form of harassment—denied knowledge of the extent of the problems within his organization.

"This is all new to me," Cuban told Wertheim and Luther. "The only awareness I have is because I heard you guys were looking into some things. ... 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."

"It's wrong. It's abhorrent. It's not a situation we condone," he explained.

Cuban said he is "embarrassed" that this happened under his ownership and it "needs to be fixed."

The Mavericks responded to the report before it was published with an official statement on their website:

"The Mavericks organization takes these allegations extremely seriously. Yesterday we notified the league office and immediately hired outside counsel to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. The investigation will focus on the specific allegations related to this former employee, and will look more broadly at our company's workplace practices and policies. In addition, an employee whose job was to receive and investigate such complaints and report them accurately and fully, has been suspended pending the conclusion of our investigation.

[...]

"There is no room for such conduct in the Mavericks' workplace—or any workplace."

The team also noted it will provide support for the affected employees and will take steps to improve the current workplace environment.

The NBA released an official statement on Tuesday, via Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports:

The organization was referred to as a "real life Animal House," by a former employee, with allegations including public fondling by Ussery and "unsupportive or even intimidating responses from superiors who heard complaints of inappropriate behavior."

"I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue...they always knew how to treat people," a female former senior staffer told Sports Illustrated. "Then I'd go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete s--tshow. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk."

Though he was investigated for inappropriate behavior in 1998, Ussery retained his job and reportedly continued to harass female employees, although he denied the allegations.

"I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me," the former president said 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 pleaded guilty to family violence assault in 2012 but kept his job until he was suspended and eventually fired Tuesday. Head of human resources Buddy Pittman was also fired in response to the Sports Illustrated revelations.

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