Sports Illustrated dropped a lengthy dive tonight into what it called the Dallas Mavericks’ “corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior.” The report went into detail on the various ways male Mavericks employees behaved inappropriately toward female co-workers, and why female employees felt like they couldn’t say anything about it. The story came within hours of the Mavericks releasing a preemptive statement about the report.
One of the most prominent figures in the report is Terdema Ussery, the team’s former president and CEO, who multiple current and former Mavericks employees say harassed them. Ussery had been investigated by the team in 1998, before Mark Cuban bought the team, after several female employees complained about his behavior. He kept his job, but SI reported that afterward “the entire Mavericks workforce received revamped employee handbooks that included a new sexual harassment policy.”
And, according to the women who spoke with SI, Ussery’s behavior didn’t change. Here’s an anecdote from one Mavericks employee:
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.”
Other women accused Ussery of inappropriate touching and repeatedly propositioning them for sex.
Two women claimed to SI that Ussery harassed them for years. These incidents ranged from inappropriate remarks to requests for sex to touching women’s calves and thighs during meetings. One of the women says she made [head of HR Buddy Pittman] aware—“countless times … I ‘leaned in’ so much I fell over”—of Ussery’s behavior; the other chose not to, frustrated by what she deemed to be Pittman’s unhelpful response to an unrelated complaint she had raised. “I felt trapped, frozen, scared,” says one of the women. “This was the CEO of the organization ... and it was clear he wasn’t going to get fired.”
Ussery left the Mavericks in 2015 to join Under Armour, where he resigned after less than two months on the job. In a statement to SI, Ussery denied the allegations saying he was “deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me.”
SI also reported on Earl Sneed, who freelanced then became a full-time beat reporter for Mavs.com in the 2010-11 season. From the report:
Midway through that season, Sneed was involved in a domestic dispute with a girlfriend. According to a Dallas police report, Sneed “sat on top of her and slapped her on the face and chest.” At one point he told the woman, “I’m going to f——— kick your ass. Today is gonna be the worst day of your life.” Sneed, according to the report, “fled before the reporting officer arrived.” The woman, according to the report, suffered a fractured right wrist and bruises on her arms and chest in the altercation.
Sneed was arrested and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of family violence assault and interference with emergency request, but he kept his job, per the report. Then, in 2014, Sneed hit a female coworker whom he was dating. The woman reported the incident to her supervisor and the head of HR, Buddy Pittman. Still, Sneed kept his job. Pittman was fired on Monday, when SI asked Cuban for comment on his situation. Sneed was fired on Tuesday.
The report adds that one employee “openly watched pornography at his desk,” but doesn’t go into further detail about that.
The women who spoke to SI made it clear that the athletes were not part of the problem, with one former senior staffer saying “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 shitshow.”
Cuban himself is never named as a perpetrator and abuser, but multiple employees say that he turned a blind eye to these accusations. Cuban says in the article that he was unaware of any culture of harassment, but that doesn’t square with his image as the NBA’s most hands-on team owner.
“Trust me,” one Mavericks employee said. “Mark knows everything that goes on.”