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Mavericks owner Cuban donates $10M to women's causes after workplace probe

An investigation found that 15 females in the Dallas Mavericks organization were subjected to harassment by former the team's former CEO Terdema Ussery.
Credit: Kevin C. Cox
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, looks on in the final seconds of their 112-107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 23, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban agreed to donate $10 million to organizations that help those affected by domestic violence and encourage the hiring of women in leadership roles after an independent investigation found current and former Mavericks employees committed "serious workplace misconduct," according to the findings released by the NBA on Wednesday.

The investigation, led by former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, found that 15 females in the Mavericks organization were subjected to harassment by former CEO Terdema Ussery, including "inappropriate comments, touching, and forcible kissing." It also found workplace misconduct that stretched nearly 20 years.

“The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking and no employee in the NBA, or any workplace for that matter, should be subject to the type of working environment described in the report,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

“We appreciate that Mark Cuban reacted swiftly, thoroughly and transparently to the allegations first set forth in Sports Illustrated – including the immediate hiring of Cynthia Marshall as CEO to effect change, but as Mark has acknowledged, he is ultimately responsible for the culture and conduct of his employees.

"While nothing will undo the harm caused by a select few former employees of the Mavericks, the workplace reforms and the $10 million that Mark has agreed to contribute are important steps toward rectifying this past behavior and shining a light on a pervasive societal failing – the inability of too many organizations to provide a safe and welcoming workplace for women.”

Under NBA rules, the league would have only been able to fine Cuban $2.5 million.

Cuban's donation will go to "organizations that are committed to supporting the leadership and development of women in the sports industry and combating domestic violence," according to the news release.

"First, just an apology to the women involved," Cuban told ESPN. "... This is not something that just is an incident and then it's over. It stays with people. It stays with families. And I'm just sorry I didn't see it. I'm just sorry I didn't recognize it."

Cuban told ESPN that he takes accountability for not knowing that women in the Mavericks' organization felt unsafe coming to work.

"In hindsight, it was staring me right in the face and I missed it," Cuban told The Jump. "You know ... I wasn't as focused on the business as I should've been. ...

"It just never in my wildest dreams that I think that this was happening right underneath me. And I never -- the pain that people went through, the pain that people shared with me as this happened, the tears that I saw ... It just -- it hurt. And the way I felt is nothing compared to the way they felt. ... I mean, I have to recognize I made a mistake, learn from it and then try to fix it."

Cuban told ESPN that Silver never discussed him selling the team, nor did Cuban consider it himself.

"No," Cuban said. "I don't run away from my mistakes."

The seven-month investigation began shortly after a Sports Illustrated story detailed a corrosive workplace environment that included sexual harassment, domestic violence and inappropriate workplace behavior. The NBA said 215 interviews of current and former Mavericks employees were conducted and 1.6 million documents were reviewed as part of the investigation.

While the report did not find evidence that Cuban had any knowledge of any of the workplace behavior, his management style came under fire and the report included several instances of his ''error in judgment.''

Milgram and Marshall addressed the media during an afternoon news conference in Dallas.

"The report provides overwhelming evidence that some of our leaders did not foster an anti-harassment, respectful, inclusive and diverse culture. As swift action was promised back in February, those leaders are no longer with the Dallas Mavericks," Marshall said.

The first sexual harassment complaint made against Ussery came in 1998, a year after he took over as president and CEO. An investigation was launched at the time, although no records were provided of the inquiry in the latest investigation. The other allegations range from 2000 – the year Cuban purchased the Mavericks – through 2015.

"Not a single current or former employee, including all of the complainants whose accounts we substantiated above, stated that they had told Cuban about Ussery’s misconduct." the report stated. "Nor did we uncover any documentary evidence showing that Cuban was informed about Ussery’s behavior."

Earl K. Sneed, a writer for the Mavericks' website, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his then-girlfriend and eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2012, according to the SI report. Sneed was fired in February after the story was published, although the investigative report also detailed a 2014 incident in whichhe allegedly grabbed his girlfriend and pulled her out of the car. The woman also was a Mavericks employee at the time.

Cuban, as he did in the 2012 incident, wanted Sneed to receive counseling and did not seek to terminate Sneed.

"Ultimately, the Mavericks failed to handle either of Sneed’s domestic violence assaults appropriately," investigators concluded.

The Mavs and their human resources department – led formerly by Senior VP Buddy Pittman – fostered an environment where "employees did not report the harassment" because there "was a sense of futility with respect to making complaints," investigators concluded.

The report also highlighted the alleged conduct of Chris Hyde, a former account executive in the ticket sales department. Hyde allegedly watched pornography at work, made several sexual advances and created an intimidating work environment. Complaints were made to HR, although Hyde "remained employed without any significant consequences for fourteen years" before he was terminated in 2014.

One of the most jarring incidents detailed in the report was titled "The Condom Incident," where "several employees noticed a used condom lying on the floor" of Hyde's office in February 2011. Hyde told Pittman in an email he had been with his girlfriend during lunch at his apartment and forgot "to discard the item in question.”

George Prokos, the team's senior VP of ticket sales and services, "failed to address employee complaints about Hyde’s conduct" and even "challenged" a female employee who came forward. Porkos was recently fired after the team learned of the investigators' findings.

New York-based Krutoy Law, which is headed by Evan Krutoy, and Lowenstein Sandler attorney Milgram, was hired in February to conduct an independent investigation.

Krutoy was a prosecutor in the district attorney's office in Manhattan for more than 22 years and handled high-profile rape and murder cases. He also was the acting deputy bureau chief of the sex crimes unit, according to his website. Milgram is a former attorney general of New Jersey.

Follow Perez on Twitter @byajperez and Zillgitt @JeffZillgitt

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