Author Topic: Dallas Mavericks aticle on company sexism  (Read 746 times)

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Dallas Mavericks aticle on company sexism
« on: February 21, 2018, 06:03:53 pm »

■More than a dozen current and ex-employees characterize the Mavs' hostile work environment—ranging from sexual harassment to domestic violence—as an “open secret.” Sports Illustrated details the allegations in a special investigation.

By Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther
February 20, 2018

It was an hour or so before tip–off. The Dallas Mavericks were hosting a nationally televised game during the 2010–11 NBA season. And, deep inside the American Airlines Center, a recently–hired Mavericks support staff employee was eating dinner in the media dining room. As the woman sat down, the team president and CEO, Terdema Ussery, asked if he could join her. She grew nervous, not because Ussery was her boss’s boss, or because he was one of the most prominent figures in the Dallas sportscape. It was because his reputation as a serial sexual harasser of women preceded him.

At this meal, with ESPN crew members seated nearby, Ussery struck up an unusual conversation. As the woman recalls the exchange, Ussery claimed that he knew what she was going to do over the coming weekend. When the woman asked, confusedly, what Ussery meant, he smiled.

“You’re going to get gang-banged,” he asserted, “aren’t you?”

“No,” the woman responded, caught off-guard. “Actually, I’m going to the movies with friends.”

“No,” Ussery insisted. “You’re definitely getting gang-banged.”

The employee was startled but not entirely surprised. When she first accepted her job with the Mavericks in 2010, she’d shared the news with her local Dallas women’s running group. Instead of congrats, she recalls, she received warnings. “Watch out for the president,” one friend said. “Whatever you do, don’t get trapped in an elevator with him.”

When the woman recounted the dining room exchange to female colleagues at the Mavs, they too were something other than shocked. One shared that Ussery had repeatedly propositioned her for sex, even offering to leave his marriage if the woman relented—an account the second woman confirmed to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for this story.  Another woman shared that Ussery’s inappropriate behavior was one of the reasons she was quitting her sales job after more than a decade. (Reached by SI, that woman declined comment, but records confirm that her employment with the Mavericks ended at a time consistent with the chronology of this account.)

“It was a real life Animal House,” says one former organization employee who left recently after spending roughly five years with the Mavs. “And I only say ‘was’ because I’m not there anymore. I’m sure it’s still going on.”

Ussery, who left the Mavericks in 2015, was hardly alone. Interviews with more than a dozen former and current Mavericks employees in different departments, conducted during a months-long SPORTS ILLUSTRATED investigation, paint a picture of a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior: alleged public fondling by the team president; outright domestic assault by a high-profile member of the staff; unsupportive or even intimidating responses from superiors who heard complaints of inappropriate behavior from their employees; even an employee who openly watched pornography at his desk. Most sources did not want their names used for a variety of reasons including fear of retaliation and ostracization and limits imposed by agreements they signed with the team.


How Will the NBA Respond to the Mavericks’ Misconduct Allegations?
While sources referred to the Mavericks office as a “locker room culture,” the team’s actual locker room was a refuge. Says one female former senior staffer: “I dealt with players all the time. I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue…they always knew how to treat people. Then I'd go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete sh*tshow. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.”

A half-dozen female former Mavericks or American Airlines Center employees contacted by SI claim that they left the sports sector because of a work environment and structure that left them feeling vulnerable and devalued while protecting—and continuing to employ—powerful men who misbehaved. “There was built-in protection for a lot of men,” says a former male department head at American Airlines Center. “The lack of oversight and compassion within all levels of the business was alarming.”

“You don’t feel safe going to work and it’s not long before you look for another job,” says one of those women, now employed in a different sector. “And then you wonder why there aren’t more women working in sports. Really?”

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

By now, you should have read Jessica Luther and Jon Wertheim's SI exposé about how the Dallas Mavericks organization was fraught with misogyny and sexual harassment for decades. While Mark Cuban has built up a lot of equity with sports fans and media as a candid, interesting, and thoughtful voice as owner of the Mavs, the depth and breadth of this investigative story - combined with the laser-focus he had on all aspects of the franchise - makes it so that it defies credulity that he could have had no idea that it was going on.

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The piece has too many sexual harassment allegations to count from women who work or worked for the Mavs against Terdema Ussery, who was CEO of the franchise from 1997 until 2015 (he denied the allegations to SI). There were accounts of non-action from now-former head of HR Buddy Pittman. The team's now-former in-house beat writer Earl K. Sneed was accused of domestic violence by his girlfriend, later arrested for assault at the team's facilty, and had another domestic dispute with a new girlfriend, who was also employed by the Mavs. These incidents were collectively significant enough that legally Sneed was not permitted to travel to Canada with the team.

Here was Cuban's response to the story:

Reached by SI on Monday, Cuban expressed embarrassment and horror at the accusations-but insisted he had no knowledge of the corrosive culture in his offices. "This is all new to me," he said. "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."

Cuban continued in an emotional response: "It's wrong. It's abhorrent. 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."

Pressed on how it is that a proudly hyper-attentive owner could be so oblivious, Cuban said, "I deferred to the CEO, who at the time was Terdema, and to HR…. I was involved in basketball operations, but other than getting the financials and reports, I was not involved in the day to day [of the business side] at all. That's why I just deferred. I let people do their jobs. And if there were anything like this at all I was supposed to be made aware, obviously I was not."

While there is almost nothing Cuban could say that would in any way be deemed as a sufficient response to the SI story, it's impossible to believe his ignorance plea. As the SI piece notes, and everybody reading this knows, he has touted himself as being attentive at all levels of the organization:

The very model of a modern hands-on owner, Cuban prides himself on the extent to which he is involved in team affairs. (SI obtained an interoffice email Cuban sent in 2010 complaining about production value of Mavs' telecasts. "Who exactly calls for the replays?" Cuban wrote. "You tell that person they are about to lose their job if they don't figure it out.") In the forthcoming book,  The Soul of Basketball, author Ian Thomsen asks Cuban how he is different from other owners. Cuban's response: "The big difference is, being that I'm so close to everything that's going around, you can't bullsh*t me."

Another salient point comes from the NBA writer Eric Freeman: "I would assume the guy who pulled's credentials knew why his team's beat writer couldn't travel to Canada."

"Cuban has built his reputation for 18 years on being the most hands-on owner in sports," added NBA writer Sean Highkin. "The idea that he somehow had no idea any of this was going on isn't very plausible."

It would be rash at this point to call for Cuban to have his team taken away, at least permanently. Soon-to-be former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was directly accused of sexual misconduct as opposed to presiding over it. Donald Sterling's racist telephone recording followed years and years of racial bad-will, including a housing discrimination suit that is horrifying to read about.

Nevertheless, it is just nearly impossible to believe Cuban could have been ignorant of everything presented in the SI piece, and the NBA should be leading the independent investigation as opposed to "closely monitoring" it like they said they'd do. We all have a tendency to move on to the next scandal while these lengthy internal investigations run their course, but this story should be bigger than that.
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