Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Mavs Owner Mark Cuban Donates $10M After Workplace Probe

A seven-month investigation into sexual harassment and workplace misconduct allegations within the Dallas Mavericks organization was released Wednesday afternoon confirming “numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct within the Mavericks organization” over two decades.

Key among the findings were allegations of improper workplace conduct toward 15 female employees by the Mavericks’ former President and CEO Terdema Ussery, including inappropriate comments, touching and forcible kissing, and allegations of improper workplace conduct by former Mavericks ticket sales employee Chris Hyde.

Hyde’s inappropriate conduct was said to include inappropriate comments to women of a sexual nature, the viewing and sharing of pornographic images and videos, unsolicited and unwanted sexual advances, and violent and threatening outbursts toward co-workers.

Additionally, there were two acts of domestic violence allegedly perpetrated by former Mavs.com reporter Earl Sneed, including one against a team employee.

The allegations are part of a 43-page investigative report by Lowenstein Sandler that was released Wednesday afternoon. The NBA’s response to the report was released at the same time.

Investigators said Ussery engaged in a pattern of harassment and that included unwanted touching and massaging, inappropriate comments and forcible kissing and that he found a number of ways to touch and “compliment” women on their appearance. The investigation substantiated claims made by 13 people between 2000 and 2015. Many of the claims were determined to be credible because many women told colleagues about the misconduct when it happened and many contained common threads, even among women who didn’t know each other. Ussery denies inappropriate contact and sexual comments but did admit that he complimented women and massaged one woman’s shoulders. He also admitted to having one sexual conversation with one woman but added that she initiated it.

“We did a lot of things of wrong. And I wasn’t there to oversee him [Ussery]. And so yeah, everybody has every reason to question me, but I just wasn’t there and that was my fault,” said team owner Mark Cuban.

According to the report there was no evidence Cuban knew of Ussery’s behavior or that anyone told him about the behavior, but the same can’t be said about Hyde’s alleged behavior.

The report said 14 current and former employees said Hyde looked at pornographic material on his computer, laptop and phone; another 50 employees said they heard about his alleged behavior. Nine employees said Hyde’s monitor was moved against a cubical wall so fewer people would see what he was looking at and seven said he’d made unwanted sexual advances.

Sexually explicit images were found on Hyde’s computer when it was searched in 2008 as part of a lawsuit. Lawyers for the team notified Cuban who sent a  “very strongly worded email” to Ussery and Pittman “telling him to stop it or he’d get fired.”

In 2011, a condom was seen falling out of Hyde’s pants. The incident was recorded on surveillance video and Cuban was notified. According to the report, Cuban said not to make a bigger issue out of it than it was and to put Hyde on probation and warn him of termination should it happen again.

Sometime between 2011 and 2013 Cuban said, “this bullshit with Chris Hyde is going to end,” when it was believed Hyde was taking kickbacks from a ticket broker.

In 2014 Hyde allegedly “behaved inappropriately” with a new female employee; Cuban said to fire him.

On Hyde, Cuban told ESPN in a taped interview that aired Wednesday, “Obviously this was a huge mistake on my part. I mean, I was under the impression that he had the first issue with the pornography was resolved and obviously it wasn’t. And I said if anything out of the question happens again, well, what was three years earlier and I hadn’t had any follow up beyond being told that he was being — from my perspective there weren’t any issues. It was stupid on my part,” Cuban said. “I messed up. I should have just fired him on the spot. It was just a huge mistake. There’s just no way to downplay it and if someone were to show me from another company and asked me to read it I would say you can’t make a bigger mistake because that destroys the whole culture of your organization.”

As a result of the investigation, Cuban said he’s ultimately responsible for the culture and conduct of his employees and has pledged to contributed $10 million to organizations committed to supporting the leadership and development of women in the sports industry and combating domestic violence.

“The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking 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,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “While nothing will undo the harm caused by a select few former employees of the Mavericks, the workplace reforms and the $10 million that Mark has agreed to contribute are important steps toward rectifying this past behavior and shining a light on a pervasive societal failing — the inability of too many organizations to provide a safe and welcoming workplace for women.”

The investigation recommended a number of changes be made at the organization, including increasing the number of women on staff and in leadership positions; Enhancing a formal reporting process for victims of misconduct; Implementing regular employee surveys on workplace culture and expanding and improving the human resources department and instituting clear protocols for investigating allegations of workplace misconduct.

“The report confirms that several of these steps have already been taken, including the hiring of Ms. Marshall and other new senior female leaders, and notes that ‘we heard from employees of a sea change in the professional environment at the Mavericks that began almost immediately following’ the publication of the Sports Illustrated article,” the league said in a statement.

The league is also requiring the Mavericks provide them with quarterly reports regarding the recommendations set forth in the report and their implementation; Immediately report to the league office any instances or allegations of significant misconduct by any employee; Continually enhance and update annual “Respect in the Workplace” training for all staff, including ownership; and implement a program to train all staff, including ownership, on issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

During a taped interview with ESPN, Cuban got emotional discussing how he felt reading the reports and details of what the women who worked for the team went through.

“Just the pain that they went through at my company. It was the same way I felt when I stood in front of Mavs employees for the first time after this came out. I apologized to them. It just never in my wildest dreams that I think that this was happening and it was right underneath me. The pain that people went through, the pain that people shared with me as this happened, the tears that I saw. It just hurt and the way I felt was nothing compared to the way they felt. I mean, I, you know, I guess just my nature, I mean recognizing I made a mistake, learn from it, and then try to fix it.”

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The Report of the Independent Investigation of Dallas Basketball Limited