Mavericks, Mark Cuban sanctioned by NBA over team’s handling of sexual harassment

Cuban will pay $10 million to women’s leadership and domestic violence organizations.

Mark Cuban
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. –Bloomberg photo by David Paul Morris

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, will pay $10 million to women’s leadership and domestic violence organizations under an agreement with the NBA announced Wednesday to address sexual harassment and other improper conduct among employees in the team’s front office.

The payment, and other reporting, staffing and leadership changes, are the result of a monthslong investigation into accusations against several employees, including the former team president and chief executive, Terdema Ussery.

Cuban did not face accusations of misconduct, but the investigation found his supervision severely lacking and he agreed to the payment, avoiding a fine. Still, the payment by far exceeds the amount of any fine the league has imposed on a team or owner.

Advertisement

In a statement, the league announced that the money from Cuban’s fine would be donated to a variety of organizations chosen by an advisory council of Mavericks executives, including Cuban, as well as several NBA officials. The investigation, conducted by independent investigators overseen by the league, also recommended that the Mavericks hire more women, including in leadership positions, and create a formal process for employees to report misconduct.

The NBA ordered the Mavericks to file quarterly reports on its progress in those areas, and to begin workplace training for all staff members, including Cuban, 60, who acquired a majority stake of the Mavericks in 2000 and has long been one of the NBA’s most vocal — and public — owners.

The report was based on information gathered from more than 200 interviews with current and former Mavericks employees.

In an interview with ESPN on Wednesday, Cuban apologized and said he had missed opportunities to correct the culture of his organization.

“This is not something that just is an incident, and then it’s over,” Cuban said. “It stays with people. It stays with families. I’m just sorry to see it. I’m just sorry I didn’t recognize it, and I just hope that out of this we’ll be better, and we can avoid it, and we can help everybody just be smarter about the whole thing.”

Advertisement

The investigation arose from an article in Sports Illustrated in February that painted a picture of a workplace teeming with problems for female employees.

The article said Ussery, who was once a rising star in the profession, had engaged in “various acts of inappropriate conduct toward women,” and that Earl Sneed, a former writer for the team’s official website, had faced numerous allegations of domestic violence.

Although Cuban did not face accusations of misconduct, the employees who were mistreated suggested the harassment had gone on for years and that he must have known about it and had done little to prevent it.

The findings of that investigation were released Wednesday as a part of a 43-page report. Among other things, it was determined that Ussery had engaged in improper workplace conduct toward 15 female employees, including touching them and making inappropriate comments, and that Sneed had committed two acts of domestic violence, including one against a co-worker. Cuban was made aware of the incident but did not fire him.

In addition, the report found that Chris Hyde, a longtime senior account executive, had made inappropriate comments toward women, viewed pornography on his workplace computer and made unsolicited sexual advances toward co-workers. Even after Cuban warned Hyde about looking at pornography at the office, Hyde’s inappropriate behavior continued for years.

“I messed up,” Cuban said in his interview with ESPN. “I should’ve just fired him on the spot.”

He added, “In hindsight, it was staring me right in the face and I missed it. I wasn’t as focused on the business as I should have been.”

Advertisement

After the allegations surfaced months ago, Cuban began to make changes — changes that may have helped him avoid a stiffer penalty from the league. The league acknowledged that the team already had taken steps to address some of the goals it set out in its report.

After terminating the contract of Buddy Pittman, the team’s human resources director, Cuban hired three women to work in high-profile positions: Cynthia Marshall as chief executive officer; Tarsha LaCour as senior vice president of human resources; and Cyndee Wales as chief ethics and compliance officer.

The Mavericks also instituted mandatory “respect in the workplace” training and created a confidential hotline for employees to share concerns.

Ussery spent 18 years with the Mavericks before resigning in 2015 to take a position with Under Armour. Sneed announced that he was leaving the team after the Sports Illustrated report was published — and then deleted his Twitter account.

“The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, “and no employee in the NBA, or any workplace for that matter, should be subject to the type of working environment described in the report.”