In the wake of an SI.com report detailing a corrosive workplace culture within the Mavericks’ organization, the team has hired outside counsel to “conduct a thorough and independent investigation” into the allegations and into the franchise’s workplace practices and policies. The NBA has also issued a statement calling the alleged behavior “completely unacceptable” and indicating that the league “will closely monitor the independent investigation into this matter.”
In their report for SI.com, Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther describe an “Animal House“-type culture in Dallas. The allegations outlined in the story focus on former Mavs president and CEO Terdema Ussery and former Mavs.com beat writer Earl K. Sneed, who was fired on Tuesday, according to the team. However, the reported workplace misconduct isn’t limited to those two men. As Wertheim and Luther write, accounts from their sources “paint a picture of a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior.”
One former female Mavs staffer tells SI.com that she never had an issue with any of the team’s players — the club’s actual locker room is described as a “refuge,” while the business offices represented more of a “locker room culture,” in the worst sense of the term. According to SI.com’s account, Ussery earned a reputation as a “serial sexual harasser” who allegedly made inappropriate remarks to – and publicly fondled – female employees.
Sneed, meanwhile, was involved in two domestic disputes, including one with a fellow Mavs employee he was dating at the time. Although the Mavs weren’t entirely in the dark about Sneed’s behavior, the team indicated in its statement on Tuesday night that it was “misled” by an employee (Sneed wasn’t specifically named) about a prior domestic violence incident, resulting in his dismissal.
In a statement of his own issued to The Dallas Morning News, Sneed says the domestic disputes were inaccurately described in SI.com’s report, but admits that he underwent counseling after both altercations. Sneed says he also “signed a contract stating that I would not have one-on-one contact or fraternize with female employees” after the second incident. His assault record prevented him from traveling to Canada with the Mavs when the club played in Toronto.
According to Wertheim and Luther, their sources made it clear that team owner Mark Cuban was not involved in any way in sexual harassment himself, though most found it hard to imagine that such a hands-on owner would be entirely unaware of what was happening. For his part, Cuban insists that he didn’t know what was going on, explaining that he’s more involved in the basketball operations side of the Mavs, deferring to the CEO and HR in business operations.
“This is all new to me,” Cuban told SI.com. “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,” Cuban continued. “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.”
The details in SI.com’s report reflect poorly on the Mavericks and on the NBA as a whole, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see more firings or policy changes occur as a result of the independent investigation.