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Report: Mavericks’ Workplace Culture a “Real Life Animal House”

A Sports Illustrated investigation says Dallas ignored several incidents of sexual misconduct

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The Dallas Mavericks organization fostered “a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior,” according to an expansive investigation published by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday that includes reports of sexually inappropriate behavior made against former team president Terdema Ussery. One former employee described the team’s office culture as a “real life Animal House.”

According to the report, multiple employees said that Ussery, who spent 18 years with the Mavs, had a history of inappropriate behavior that included requests for sex and touching women’s legs. Several reports about Ussery’s behavior were made to the Mavericks’ human resources department, according to the SI story, but no action was taken. Ussery left the Mavs in 2015. beat writer Earl K. Sneed also remained employed despite reportedly being involved in two instances of domestic violence. Sneed pled guilty to misdemeanor charges after fracturing the right wrist and bruising the arms and chest of his then-girlfriend in 2012. Multiple sources told SI that Sneed also hit a female Mavericks employee he was romantically involved with in 2014.

Mark Cuban, who is well known for his heavy involvement with the organization, denied that he knew anything about the incidents detailed in the report. “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.”

The Mavericks released a statement on Tuesday night that preceded the SI story, stating that the organization would conduct an internal investigation of the reported incidents and its practices and policies. “There is no room for such conduct in the Mavericks’ workplace—or any workplace,” the statement read. Sports Illustrated reported that the Mavericks fired their longtime head of human resources, Buddy Pittman, as well as Sneed.

“While both instances described in the report are damning and language used is not accurate, the two relationships described in the report are not something I am proud to have been a part of,” Sneed wrote in a statement to the Dallas Morning News. “I underwent much counseling after both situations, under the direction of [Mavs vice president of human resources] Buddy Pittman, and I feel like I grew from that counseling. I also signed a contract stating that I would not have one-on-one contact or fraternize with female employees after the inaccurately described incident with my female co-worker, who was a live-in girlfriend. I abided by the details of that contract for four years, and received counseling during that period to avoid future instances.”

No players or coaches were accused of wrongdoing. SI described the team’s locker room as a “refuge” from the toxic office environment. The NBA also issued a statement late Tuesday that read, “This alleged conduct runs counter to the steadfast commitment of the NBA and its teams to foster safe, respectful and welcoming workplaces for all employees. Such behavior is completely unacceptable and we will closely monitor the independent investigation into this matter.”