Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has agreed with the NBA that he will donate $10 million to organizations that promote women in leadership roles and combat domestic violence as a result of the independent investigation into workplace misconduct within the franchise, the league announced. Adrian Wojnarowksi of ESPN.com first reported the news.
The max fine the NBA can give is only $2.5 million.
On Wednesday, the league released the findings from the independent investigation into sexual harassment and workplace misconduct at the team office that was done by Anne Milgram, Evan Krutoy and Krutoy Law, who were all hired by the Mavericks. The investigation suggested the team should increase the number of women on staff, including in leadership positions; enhance formal reporting processes for victims of misconduct; implement regular anonymous employee surveys to evaluate workplace culture; and expand and improve the Mavericks’ human resources department and institute clear protocols for investigating workplace misconduct.
The NBA is requiring the team to provide the league office with quarterly reports regarding the recommendations set forth in the report and their implementation; immediately report to the league office any instances or allegations of significant misconduct by any employee; continually enhance and update annual “Respect in the Workplace” training for all staff, including ownership; and implement a program to train all staff, including ownership, on issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
This all stems from a Sports Illustrated story from February by Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther that detailed a pattern of highly inappropriate sexual conduct that was taking place around the Mavericks’ workplace for years.
The investigation found that “numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct” had been going on within the organization for more than 20 years.
In the initial story from SI, one of the key figures behind the corrosive workplace culture was former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery.
During his 18 years with the Mavericks, Ussery allegedly told a woman she would be “gang-banged,” put his hands on a woman’s thigh without her consent and suggestively said to a woman, “seriously…just one time.” A former team employee said when she told her friends she took a job with the Mavericks, she was told to watch out for the president. “Whatever you do, don’t get trapped in an elevator with him.”
According to the story, Ussery was investigated by the organization in 1998 after multiple women complained of his conduct. He remained with the Mavericks and stayed on as president when Cuban bought the team in 2000.
The investigation found that Ussery demonstrated improper conduct with 15 women through “inappropriate comments, touching and forcible kissing.” It was also concluded there was no evidence Cuban was aware of Ussery’s behavior, based on none of the 215 witnesses saying they told Cuban about the misconduct and no documentary evidence being found that showed Cuban was knowledgeable of what was going on with Ussery.
Another man mentioned in the story was former team reporter Earl K. Sneed. In 2011, Sneed was arrested at the team facility two months after a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend at the time. The police reports says he slapped his girlfriend in the face and chest while sitting on top of her and at one point said, “I’m going to f—— kick your ass. Today is gonna be the worst day of your life.”
Sneed was involved in another domestic violence incident in 2014 in which he allegedly hit a fellow team employee he had a relationship with. The employee came to work with a swollen face one day and reported the abuse to her supervisor and Buddy Pittman, the Mavericks’ former head of human resources who was fired just before the initial SI story was published. Sneed was suspended around that same time, but was then fired on the same day the story came out.
The investigation corroborated both of the instances of domestic violence.
A few months after the SI story, The Dallas Morning News reported about a former senior executive who retained his job with the team for years despite repeatedly viewing pornography at work. In 2008, Cuban warned Chris Hyde—who co-workers called “Pants DJ” because of the way he rubbed his pants while viewing pornographic images at work—that he would be fired if he continued viewing pornography at work. However, after a few months of stopping, Hyde went back to his previous behavior.
Some former employees said they never reported his behavior to human resources because they thought Hyde’s actions were known and accepted by his superiors. He was fired in 2014, but not for his inappropriate conduct.
The investigation confirmed that Hyde made inappropriate comments to women of a sexual nature, viewed and shared pornographic images and videos, made unsolicited and unwanted sexual advances and had violent and threatening outbursts toward co-workers.
Just six days after the initial SI story, Cuban hired Cynthia Marshall as the team’s new interim CEO. Since taking over, Marshall has worked to shift the team’s culture with moves like hiring Tarsha LaCour as senior vice president of human resources, promoting six female employees to executive positions and creating the chief ethics and compliance officer position that was filled by Cynthia Wales.
After the findings of the report were released, Marshall held a press conference with Milgram where they provided statements and answered questions about the report and its findings.
Milgram noted how Ussery “was most responsible for creating” the culture that allowed all of the misconduct to happen. Milgram mentioned how Ussery never received a formal complaint for his behavior, and when complaints were made against other employees, he did a poor job of properly disciplining people and notifying Cuban of improper actions.
Additionally, Milgram said there were incidents where Ussery failed to properly notify Cuban of workplace transgressions and multiple other incidents when Cuban failed to get all the information about an incident or openly turned a blind eye to an incident in hopes of it not escalating any further.
“I’m sorry I didn’t see it,” Cuban told Nichols. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know and I don’t have an explanation.
“In hindsight it was staring me right in the face and I missed it…I had a CEO that I deferred to. It was a mistake.”
You can read the full investigative report here.