It didn’t shock many when business mogul Mark Cuban made comments saying he’d entertain the thought of running for the U.S. presidency. The man is one of the more personable figures in the business world, able to balance an everyman’s personality and emotion with a businessman’s acumen and foresight. He became a divided force with his behavior and antics as the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and he won American hearts when he dropped an s-bomb live on ESPN after his team took down the heels of the league, the Lebron James-led Miami Heat. The man’s personality won people over to his side and what started off in a similarly joking fashion to our current president’s entrance into the 2016 campaign soon started to earn some legitimacy.
It now seems that any presidential aspirations Cuban had are dead in their infancy after bombshell reports revealed a “corrosive workplace culture” within the Mavericks organization. In an exclusive investigation conducted by Sports Illustrated, a history of discrimination, harassment and intimidation against female employees dating back decades was made public.
Most of the investigation centers around former Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery, former head of HR Buddy Pittman and former Mavs.com beat writer Earl Sneed. Numerous female employees claimed that Ussery was known throughout the company as a serial sexual harasser about whom women were warned, “whatever you do, don’t get trapped in an elevator with him.”. He fell under investigation multiple times during his 18-year tenure with the team but was continually retained. Pittman was brought in specifically to keep Ussery in check, but ended up creating a culture of intimidation through his political views and expression that discouraged employees from reporting misconduct.
Sneed was arrested at the team’s facility after assaulting his girlfriend in 2011, an attack that left her with a fractured wrist. He was retained by the organization after pleading guilty and assaulted another girlfriend, who worked for the Mavericks as well, in 2014.
While Cuban’s name is not mentioned among the names reported in the story, he arguably is the most important figure in the story. Cuban has been the owner of the team since 2000, and the majority of the allegations revealed in the SI investigation occurred under his ownership. He also had personal contact with Sneed when he inquired about working for the organization in 2009.
Cuban has been glorified as the modern example of a hands-on sports owner in the 18 years since taking over the Mavericks, yet he claims ignorance to the toxicity of his organization, saying “this is all new to me.” The man who said that he’s different from other sports owners because “I’m so close to everything that’s going around” and “you can’t bullshit me” claims he had no clue that rampant sexual misconduct and harassment permeated his company. Someone’s calling bullshit on Cuban. “Trust me, Mark knows everything that goes on,” said an unnamed longtime former Mavericks employee, continuing, “of course Mark knew … everyone knew.” Another employee who was a victim of sexual harassment claims that Cuban turned a blind eye because Ussary was bringing in record profits for the franchise.
Following the release of SI’s discoveries, Cuban fired Pittman, suspended Sneed (who was later fired), instituted sensitivity training for all employees (including himself) and said the team would set up a hotline offering counseling and support services for past and current employees. It’s a speedy response to an issue that needed a response more than 15 years ago.
It’s a good thing that Cuban is taking action and making internal corrections that were long overdue, but a man who prides himself on guiding the rudder of the ship and being the public face of his projects has no place claiming he had no awareness to the situation brewing within his own company. If he can’t maintain equality, civility and a non-discriminatory atmosphere within the staff of an NBA team, there is little faith that he’d do much better within the Oval Office. He has his own “locker room culture” to fix before worrying about the one in Washington.