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Mavericks release results of sexual harassment investigation; NBA and Mark Cuban agree to significant fines

Cuban has agreed to pay $10 million to charities in the wake of “serious workplace misconduct”

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Seven months ago, the Mavericks organization was rocked by a Sports Illustrated report detailing a rampant, toxic workplace culture of sexual harrassment and related misconduct. This scandal went all the way to the top, involving the then-CEO, the head of HR, and the team’s internal reporter, Earl K. Sneed. (To refresh your memory, we have a more detailed timeline of events.)

The Mavericks have taken steps since then to find out what went wrong. They hired a new interim CEO, former AT&T executive Cynthia Marshall, with a mandate to make the Mavericks a model workplace culture. And they commissioned an independent investigation — with the NBA commissioner’s buy-in — into what went wrong.

The results of that investigation are now public.

Per Adrian Wojnarowski, Cuban and the NBA have agreed that he will donate $10 million to charities that promote women in leadership and fight domestic violence. It appears that there will be no penalties directly affecting the actual Mavericks organization. In addition, there will be NBA-mandated changes to workplace reporting, staffing and policy.

The NBA has released a statement summarizing the full report, or you can read the full report here. Among other things, the report validated “numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct within the Mavericks organization over a period spanning more than twenty years.” It also concludes that “Mavericks’ management was ineffective, including a lack of compliance and internal controls, and that these shortcomings permitted the growth of an environment in which acts of misconduct and the individuals who committed them could flourish.”

The report also concludes that, from what investigators could find, Mark Cuban himself was not aware of the sexual harassment incidents, but does point out that “The Mavericks executive leadership team failed to respond adequately and committed a significant error in judgment by retaining Mr. Sneed following his domestic violence incidents.”

I’ve not yet read the full report, but some initial reactions:

The report really seemed to confirm what we already knew and what had already been reported: the culture was rampant, leadership was part of the problem, and Mark Cuban himself either ignored or didn’t know about it. However, I am happy that it doesn’t ignore that he did know about Earl Sneed, and was responsible for the decision to keep him on even when he threatened the safety of another team employee.

With respect to the punishment, my personal opinion is that, short of forcing Cuban out, I don’t know a punishment anyone would consider strong enough for what happened here. A suspension certainly would have been warranted and probably should have happened, at least, in addition to the fines/donations — which frankly don’t hurt Cuban at all.

That Cuban has agreed to donate an additional $10 million to charities is a good step in the right direction. And that he has already made the necessary changes in bringing in new leadership and starting to make the changes needed so that this never happens again is already a positive step. The NBA and Adam Silver seem to look very positively upon those as on the way to fixing this problem.

I have never been of the mind that Cuban should be forced to sell the team. However, I do hold him accountable for the willful ignorance of the terrible things happening in his own organization, with the support and participation of leaders he personally hired or failed to properly vet. Cuban has always prided himself on being a vocal and hands-on owner. The report concludes no one told him and he didn’t know about the sexual harassment allegations, but for something to happen over TWENTY YEARS — I don’t know that there’s an excuse in not knowing, especially for him.

In short, the penalty is what it is, because I don’t know that there could have been anything strong enough to satisfy everyone. I like the direction the team has taken in the meantime. But this is still going to leave a bad taste in my mouth about the team I love for a long time.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mark Cuban was also fined $2.5 million.