In a shocking investigation for Sports Illustrated, Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther detail the hostile work environment of the Dallas Mavericks, revealing claims of sexual assault and domestic violence against members of the organization:
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 Mavs.com 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.
Employees characterize the office culture as a “real life Animal House” and an “open secret.” Many of the allegations were brought against former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery, who resigned in 2015:
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.
Just before the story was published, the Mavericks released an official statement on their website, stating that they have begun “a thorough and independent investigation”:
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.
Owner Mark Cuban maintains that he had no knowledge of the “corrosive workplace culture,” telling SI that “this is all new to [him]” and that he only became aware of the situation once he heard about the story.
Cuban added that he is “embarrassed” and that the environment “needs to be fixed.” The head of HR Buddy Pittman has been fired since reports surfaced.
The NBA issued their own response on Tuesday, via Yahoo Sports‘ Dan Devine:
The NBA just released a statement on @SInow‘s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct within the Dallas Mavericks organization (https://t.co/q2Eau2rgkW): pic.twitter.com/xJK8gqvfNU
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) February 21, 2018