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Dallas Mavericks fostered company environment that allowed rampant sexual misconduct, per report

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The team announced the termination of one employee and the suspension of another, pending an investigation.

Feb 13, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; A general view of the Dallas Mavericks logo at center court before the game between the Mavericks and the Sacramento Kings at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fostered an environment of rampant sexual misconduct and predatory behavior for more than a decade, a Sports Illustrated story published Thursday alleges.

The article says that former Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery frequently requested sex and made sexually explicit advances to employees over the 18 years that he worked there. In 2015, Ussery left to join Under Armour. Less than two months after beginning, Ussery resigned in an “organizational reshuffle.” Sports Illustrated reports that Ussery’s resignation was likely related to sexually inappropriate behavior towards a female employee while the two were alone in an elevator.

(Ussery issued a statement to Sports Illustrated denying any sexual misconduct and said the “misleading claims about me are part of an attempt to shift blame for the failure to remove employees who created an uncomfortable and hostile work environment within the Mavericks organization.”)

Sports Illustrated also reports that Earl K. Sneed, a Mavericks beat writer for Mavs.com, was arrested and charged with domestic assault during the 2010-11 season. (The charge was eventually dropped after completion of his sentence involving community service and anger management courses.) Sneed, who remained employed, was then accused of acting violently toward a women — who was also a Mavericks employee, per Sports Illustrated — who he was in a relationship with in 2014. Once again, the Mavericks retained him as an employee.

On Tuesday, the Dallas Mavericks issued this statement to SB Nation, as well as other media websites. They announce that an unnamed employee — Sneed — was terminated. They also say that no knowledge of Ussery’s sexual misconduct was known during his nearly two decades as team CEO.

The Dallas Mavericks have received information about behavior in our workplace that appears to have violated the organization’s standards of conduct. It has been alleged that a former officer of the organization engaged in various acts of inappropriate conduct toward women over a period of years. This individual left the employment of the Mavericks nearly three years ago and the Mavericks have only learned of the scope of these complaints in the past days.

The Mavericks organization takes these allegations extremely seriously. Yesterday we notified the league office and immediately hired outside counsel to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. The investigation will focus on the specific allegations related to this former employee, and will look more broadly at our company’s workplace practices and policies. In addition, an employee whose job was to receive and investigate such complaints and report them accurately and fully, has been suspended pending the conclusion of our investigation.

In a separate matter, we have also learned that an employee misled the organization about a prior domestic violence incident. This employee was not candid about the situation and has been terminated.

There is no room for such conduct in the Mavericks’ workplace—or any workplace.

The Mavericks will provide all necessary resources to ensure that every current and former employee receives appropriate support. We will also conduct comprehensive training through experts and take the necessary steps to ensure that our workplace is a safe, respectful and productive one for all Dallas Mavericks employees. We are committed-- to our employees, our team and our fans-- to meet the goals of dignity, security and fairness that define the Dallas Mavericks.

We will not make any further comments until after the completion of the investigation.

The Sports Illustrated article also references the Mavericks’ Human Resources director, Buddy Pittman, who is accused of being responsible for covering up sexual misconduct charges. The Mavericks announced that Pittman is suspended until the completion of their internal investigation. In a statement to Sports Illustrated, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said that Pittman had been fired.

Cuban, who proudly calls himself a hands-on owner of the team, said he was not aware of the sexual misconduct and the atmosphere that fostered it among his team until reached by Sports Illustrated.

“It’s wrong,” Cuban said in the story. “It’s abhorrent. It’s not a situation we condone. I can’t tell you how many times, particularly since all this [#MeToo] stuff has been coming out recently I asked our HR director, ‘Do we have a problem? Do we have any issues I have to be aware of?’ And the answer was no.”

Other current and former Mavericks employees quoted in the story say that Cuban must have known of the culture, even though it is clearly stated that Cuban himself was not a participant in it.

Late Tuesday, the NBA released this statement to SB Nation and other media outlets regarding the story.

The Dallas Mavericks have informed us of the allegations involving former team president Terdema Ussery and Mavs.com writer Earl Sneed. 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.

The full Sports Illustrated report can be read here.