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Let’s make a bigger issue out of Mark Cuban’s inaction

Regardless of how Cuban and the Mavericks move forward, it will be impossible to forget and even forgive what happened for two decades.

Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The independent investigation that dropped today detailing the Mavericks long and toxic workplace culture was never going to change much regarding my feelings of Mark Cuban.

Without the report, we knew that Cuban knowingly employed a convicted domestic abuser for seven years after the employee was arrested. We knew that Cuban was aware of the behavior of an employee with a long record of inappropriate workplace conduct, the same employee who left a used condom in the office. We knew that despite Cuban’s claim to ignorance of the culture of the organization he runs, that it’s impossible for a leader to be blameless when the workplace for somewhere you run has been so toxic and so awful for 20 years — literally the entire time Cuban has owned the team.

So the details of the report today didn’t uncover some deep or dark unsettling truth about Cuban’s involvement. It proved something we’ve known for the last six months — Mark Cuban didn’t care enough and because of that, hundreds of women had their lives altered.

That statement makes my skin crawl and my blood boil. For this gross amount of negligence, Mark Cuban agreed to donate $10 million to charity and the NBA is enforcing strict requirements and reporting for the Mavericks organization. In other words, Cuban’s punishment is a tax break and, uh, actually doing his damn job.

I have no idea what my ideal punishment for Cuban should be. I know the NBA is hamstrung when it comes to punishing owners (hey, maybe they should look at that sometime!) but I waffle between a mixture of rage and sadness. One minute I want Cuban launched to the Moon, where I never have to hear his voice again. The next I realize that no punishment in the world will give the women who were hurt the lives they had before.

That’s where I finally land — this is unfair. For two decades, the organization Cuban owns monstrously mistreated hundreds of women. Their lives were forever altered in some shape or from, whether that’s mental anguish, career derailments or uprooted families. Within Mavs Moneyball, we’ve heard stories that former employees had to quit their dream job to never work in the industry again.

Working for an NBA team is likely considered a lifetime achievement for people; a pinnacle of their careers. Cuban betrayed those dreams with his inaction. The lives of those women from the moment they were harassed, heckled or assaulted will never be the same. Cuban’s life is, for the most part, the same as it is today as it was yesterday and the day before. He might feel immense guilt or shame but Cuban still gets to go to work, doing the job he loves relatively unimpeded. These women don’t.

I hate it. It makes me embarrassed to root for the Mavericks and embarrassed to watch and cover the team. The excuses today have been maddening. Cuban is mostly pleading the negligence as an excuse, acknowledging he made grave mistakes through not paying attention. It seems baffling to me that someone who boasts as hands on as Cuban does that this could possibly be true and it ultimately doesn’t matter — the people who created the hostile workplace for women were his employees and his responsibility. If Cuban couldn’t be bothered to know what his employees were up to, or at least even attempt to, that’s his fault. It’s even crazier when you take a step back and realize an NBA team isn’t a mega corporation like Microsoft or Amazon. The Dallas Mavericks don’t have that many employees and Cuban still couldn’t be bothered to manage them effectively.

What’s worse is the narrative that Cuban didn’t know what was happening doesn’t even hold up. We already know Cuban allowed Earl Sneed to stay employed with the team after he was arrested and plead guilty to domestic abuse. The report confirms Cuban also knew about the disgusting condom incident.

When then Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery, who ironically was the focal point of the Mavericks terrible harassment issues, emailed Cuban back in 2011 saying the employee “has to go...He is a walking lawsuit against us”, Cuban’s first response was this:

“Don’t make a bigger issue out of it than it is.” Instead of firing him on the spot, Cuban gave the employee another chance. It was one he didn’t deserve and didn’t live up to and he was fired in 2014, allowing for three more years where he could fester in that terrible office culture.

It brings me back from sadness to rage again, thinking about that email.

For what it’s worth, the Mavericks have seemingly done everything right since the initial Sports Illustrated story was published. Cuban hired Cynthia Marshall, a woman, to clean the organization up and she’s so far done a great job from what we can tell — she’s hired more women as managers and from what we’ve heard from inside the Mavericks, has made sure all employees had (and continue to have) access to counseling and safe places to discuss anything and everything they’ve experienced. Cuban did these things and I’m glad he has. I believe Cuban’s guilt and I believe his sorrow when he talks about the severity of the damage his organization has caused.

I also don’t know if that means if I can forgive. Call it pettiness or whatever you’d like, it’s just how I feel when I think about Cuban doing what he did for almost 20 years and still running the show. I know Cuban can’t be exiled from the NBA, I know that he can’t be thrown in jail. I just know that I’m incredibly ashamed.

“Don’t make it a bigger issue out of it than it is.”

I keep coming back to that. I probably always will, regardless of whether it’s fair or not.