As the press conferences for the Dallas Mavericks’ annual media day were set to begin on Friday afternoon, CEOs and leaders of local companies and nonprofits and universities were scattered among members of the press. They represented the newly formed, 27-person Dallas Mavericks Advisory Council, co-chaired by former Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Katie Edwards, the Mavericks’ senior director of communications.
Most of them sat patiently, seemingly excited to be in an unfamiliar environment, almost as if gifted tickets to a Hollywood movie premier. They include folks like Bob Mong, the president of UNT Dallas, and Jan Langbein, the CEO of the Genesis Women’s Shelter.
The makeup of the council itself was a reminder of the ethical and institutional failures in the organization’s recent past, factors which beget its creation. “We are here to observe,” Edwards said to the media and her fellow board members just before the press conferences started.
The Mavericks are recovering from a disgraceful public scandal at the exact moment when their on-court product is likely on the verge of an exciting turning point. Those are two vastly different dynamics that have almost nothing in common with each other, but media day was a reminder that they exist on not-so-distant planes. This is a professional sports organization with a lot to reckon with and a professional sports team with a lot of promise. Those aren’t equally important, but they are equally true.
Two days before media day, the results of the team’s harassment investigation was made public. It substantiated numerous allegations of workplace misconduct that took place over the past two decades, the vast majority of which happened through Mark Cuban’s tenure as owner. (Cuban said he was unaware that Ussery was investigated by the team for sexual harassment in 1998.)
The 43-page report cited incidents of grossly inappropriate behavior toward women ranging from comments to forceful, unwanted kissing to watching pornography in plain sight. The former president and CEO of the Mavericks, Terdema Ussery, was a serial harasser; the report found evidence that he harassed at least 15 employees. The team’s in-house writer, Earl K. Sneed, was not fired despite two incidences of attacking two of his significant others, one of whom was also a Mavericks’ employee. A top-performing salesman often watched pornography on his work computer and once allowed a used condom to slip out of his pantleg and onto the floor. This behavior was protected by a human resources head named Buddy Pittman, who bullied employees who reported the misconduct.
The NBA chose not to apply a basketball-related penalty like draft picks, as almost everything found in the investigation occurred on the business side. On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced a $10 million donation to various women’s organizations, four times the maximum amount the NBA can fine an owner.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle began his press conference with a statement about the scandal. “I am in awe of the women that have worked in this organization over the past twenty years,” Carlisle said. “I’m inspired by the victims who have had the courage to come forward and tell their stories to ensure an accurate investigation.”Read More