NBA Owner to Donate $10M in Lieu of Fines Over Handling of Sexual Harassment Allegations
In February of this year, a report in Sports Illustrated alleged “numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct” within the organization of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Now, after a seven-month investigation, it seems that the allegations were true, at least enough to warrant action by the league. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will also be donating $10 million to causes that support leadership and development of women in sports and that battle domestic violence.
The Sports Illustrated piece recounted stories told by current and former staff employees for the Mavericks organization—some of which went into fairly graphic detail. Many of the allegations were leveled against Terdema Ussery, the team’s president and CEO until 2015. According to the report, Ussery allegedly made inappropriate sexual comments to many workers, repeatedly propositioned others for sex, and even fondled others in public.
Those who tried to report the behavior said that they were ignored and unsupported by their superiors. In some cases, their superiors offered intimidating, almost threatening responses.
Cuban, who was not named in any of the allegations, acted quickly when the report went public. He named a new CEO—a woman named Cynthia Marshall—and promised a full independent investigation under the supervision of the NBA. While Cuban is known for his fan-as-an-owner persona, he claimed that he did not know what was going on, and the resulting investigation turned up no evidence that he did know.
The investigation was conducted over about seven months. It included 215 interviews with current and former team employees and more than 1.6 million pages of documents. The findings were summarized in a 43-page report that was recently released to the public. The report concluded that Ussery acted inappropriately toward at least 15 female employees, but his were not the only transgressions. A ticket sales employee was also found to have made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to women. He also viewed and shared pornography at work and made unsolicited and unwanted sexual advances.
Other concerns were also noted, including the lack of compliance and internal controls within the organization. The report concluded that these failures allowed an environment in which sexual harassment and other misconduct “could flourish.”
While Cuban was not named, he and the league have acknowledged that the ultimate responsibility for the organization falls on him. Instead of fining Cuban or the team, the league is accepting the $10 million donation and the reforms he has put in place as “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.”
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