The Dallas Mavericks attempted to soften the blow with a statement, but Sports Illustrated dropped the hammer about an hour later with a truly horrifying look into the Mavericks terrible and toxic workplace environment.
It was a very detailed and tough read. The biggest takeaways are the rampant sexual harassment by former Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery, inaction from the Mavericks Human Resources department and a Mavs.com employee who was arrested for domestic abuse and still employed with the team afterward, despite allegations that more abuse occurred.
Ussery joined the Mavericks as CEO in 1997 and according to the story, was accused of sexual harassment in the summer of 1998. The Mavericks then conducted a review, retained Ussery, revised the employee handbook and hired a new head of H.R.
Despite that, the harassment never stopped according to former female employees.
It seems the investigation also hardly curtailed Ussery’s inappropriate office behavior. 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 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 team in 2015 to join Under Armour in September of that year. In what makes the Mavericks look even worse, sources told SI that “Ussery rode in an elevator with a female co-worker, far lower in rank. During the elevator ride, he behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner.” After the employee reported the incident to H.R., Ussery resigned in November. Under Armour declined to comment on that incident but said it “takes these matter very seriously.”
When SI contacted Ussery about this story, he vehemently denied every allegation.
“I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me,” Ussery said in a statement to SI on Tuesday. “During my career with the Mavericks, I have strived to conduct myself with character, integrity and empathy for others.
In addition to these allegations, former employees told SI that the head of H.R. routinely ignored complaints about Ussery and others who contributed to environment in the workplace.
Unfortunately, the story continues. Mavs.com writer Earl K. Sneed was fired this week after SI brought to light his history of domestic abuse. The story states that Sneed was arrested for domestic abuse at the Mavericks facility back during the championship season and charged with assault. According to the story, on June 28, 2012, he plead guilty to misdemeanor changes of family violence assault and interference with emergency request. The details are difficult to read.
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.
Despite this, Sneed was still employed with the team. The SI story also states that it would be impossible for the team to not know about this, because aside from being arrested at the Mavericks own facility, he was unable to travel to Canada and couldn’t go with the team when they played in Toronto. The story also details additional allegations.
After his plea, Sneed dated a Mavericks colleague, a relationship the two made public in keeping with the team’s fraternization policies. Multiple sources tell SI that in 2014 the couple had a dispute and Sneed turned violent, hitting the woman.
Her face swollen, she went to work but within days reported the incident to her immediate supervisor and to Pittman. The woman recalls Pittman being professional and supportive; she also recalls Pittman informing her of Sneed’s prior arrest. In retrospect, she wonders how Sneed could have stayed employed. “He shouldn’t have a job there,” she says.
There is much more in the story and it deserves a full read. If you’re a die-hard Mavs fan, however, it won’t be easy. The only saving grace in the story is that apparently this toxic culture only existed in the office side — a former employee who was harassed told SI that the actual locker room culture was good and players treated people wonderfully.
The fallout from this is still to come, as the Mavericks start up the last half of the season on Friday in Los Angeles and have their first practice since the All-Star break on Wednesday. Mark Cuban had this to say about what SI had discovered when they presented their findings to him.
“I want to deal with this issue,” Cuban told SI. “I mean, this is, obviously there’s a problem in the Mavericks organization and we’ve got to fix it. That’s it. And we’re going to take every step. It’s not something we tolerate. I don’t want it. It’s not something that’s acceptable. I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you, that it happened under my ownership, and it needs to be fixed. Period. End of story.”
We’ll have more on this in the days to come.