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Investigation Into Dallas Mavericks Reveals Sexual Misconduct Over 20 Years

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban looks on during a game against the Detroit Pistons in April.
Carlos Osorio
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban looks on during a game against the Detroit Pistons in April.

Updated September 19, 6:02 p.m.

The results of a seven-month-long investigation into sexual harassment and workplace misconduct within the Dallas Mavericks organization over a period spanning more than 20 years were released Wednesday.

Investigators gathered information from 215 interviews with current and former employees who worked for the team during the past two decades and evaluated more than 1.6 million documents for the more than 40-page report.

Owner Mark Cuban has agreed to contribute $10 million to women's causes following the workplace investigation.

In February, the Mavericks hired outside counsel to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct by former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery. The independent probe was launched after a Sports Illustrated report described a hostile workplace for women.

"The women never really knew when they were going to be sexually harassed," Jessica Luther, one of the writers of the SI report, told KERA in February. They felt "there was no way to report it in a way that would result in any changes, so it was just part of the job."

Soon after the SI story, the Mavericks hired Cynthia Marshall, a former AT&T senior executive, as CEO. Marshall and investigator Anne Milgram held a news conference Wednesday afternoon at American Airlines Center.

"In failing to respond the correct way, ultimately the organization exacerbated the harm that had been caused," Milgram said. "Whether or not someone was a victim or not of the organization, it impacted every single employee."

Investigators confirmed improper workplace conduct toward 15 female employees by Ussery. He spent 18 years with the team before going to Under Armour in 2015. Ussery, who was investigated by the team over similar claims in 1998, has denied the allegations.

Former Mavericks ticket sales employee Chris Hyde was found by investigators to have made inappropriate sexual comments, viewed and shared pornography, and made unsolicited sexual advances and threatening outbursts toward co-workers.

The report also finds that two acts of domestic violence were committed by Mavs.com reporter Earl Sneed, including one against a team employee.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban fired Sneed and human resources director Buddy Pittman after learning details of the Sports Illustrated report. Cuban has said he had no prior knowledge of the allegations.

When Cuban talked with KERA-TV earlier this year, he wouldn't comment on the investigation. In an interview Wednesday with ESPN, Cuban apologized to the victims and their families.

"This is not something that just is an incident and then it's over," he said. "It stays with people. It stays with families. I'm just sorry I didn't see it. I'm sorry I didn't recognize it."

Recommendations for the Mavs

Investigators made a series of recommendations for the organization including increasing the number of women on staff and in leadership positions, improving formal processes for reporting misconduct, conducting regular anonymous employee surveys, and expanding the human resources department.

While the investigation was ongoing, the Mavericks replaced and added new leadership positions, including a new HR director, an ethics and compliance officer and head of diversity and inclusion. The organization also mandated "Respect in the Workplace" training and created a confidential hotline for employees to share concerns.

The NBA is requiring the Mavs to provide the league with quarterly reports about progress on implementing the requirements, to report to the league any instances or allegations of misconduct by any employee, to continually update annual "Respect in the Workplace" training for staff and to implement a program to train staff, including ownership, on issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Marshall told reporters Wednesday that her goal is to set the NBA standard for inclusion and diversity in sports.

"It is regrettable that this problematic workplace culture was not addressed sooner," she said. "I do believe we have now addressed it and created an environment that is respectful of women and men. We will continue to take steps to support and restore employees as best we can."

Copyright 2018 KERA

Molly Evans