Former Dallas Mavericks President and CEO Terdema Ussery is the latest high profile individual to be accused of sexual misconduct. According to a report from Sports Illustrated, Ussery was the ringleader of a front office culture that was “rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior.”
The accusations also include: “alleged public fondling by the team president; outright domestic assault by a high-profile member of the Mavs.com staff; unsupportive or even intimidating responses from superiors who heard complaints of inappropriate behavior from their employees; even an employee who openly watched pornography at his desk.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has responded to the sexual harassment allegations: “I don’t have any tolerance for what I’ve read, I feel sick to my stomach”.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ussery Was the Team President for 19 Years
He was hired as CEO of the Mavericks in 1997. According to Sports Illustrated: “Ussery was polished, well-connected and, colleagues say, a marketing whiz who could sell with evangelical conviction.”
However the allegations would begin in the summer of 1998. “The Mavericks conducted an internal investigation of Ussery after several female employees made complaints of inappropriate workplace behavior,” SI reported.
The investigation did not cost Ussery his job, “but shortly thereafter the entire Mavericks workforce received revamped employee handbooks that included a new sexual harassment policy,” SI reported.
2. More Than a Dozen Former & Current Mavs Employees Spoke Out Against Ussery
The months-long investigation by Sports Illustrated was incredibly thorough. However most sources did not want to their names to be made public for fear of retaliation. One anonymous incident from Jan. 17, 2008 said: “Terdema asks me if in another life would I marry him? I respond if it was another life I would be a millionaire and own this team and he couldn’t handle working for me.”
Another allegation from the spring of 2014 said: “Terdema sits next to me in the two chairs in front of his desk and as he is talking to me, he puts his hand on my left thigh, about halfway up the thigh.”
3. Mark Cuban Said He Wasn’t Aware of the Sexual Misconduct
In a response to the article from SI, the Mavs owner responded by saying: “I mean, this is all new to me. That’s what I can tell you. Um, I mean, the only awareness I have is just because I heard you guys were looking into some things. And I started doing some, asking some questions.”
Cuban went on to say: “Terdema [Ussery] was hired before I got here, and the assertions you made were news to me. I talked to our HR person and again after these came up. And I was told there had been no complaints since I bought the team or even prior to that. None. And based off of what I’ve read here, um, we just fired our HR person. I don’t have any tolerance for what I’ve read… I feel sick to my stomach.”
4. The Mavericks Issued a Team Response
The team was swift in their response and issued a statement shortly before the Sports Illustrated article went live, saying in part: “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.”
The Mavs also claimed that despite Ussery leaving the organization “nearly three years ago” they only became aware of the sexual misconduct complaints “in the past days”. The statement also said: “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.”
5. Two Others Mavericks Staffers Were Fired
Mavs.com beat reporter Earl K. Sneed and HR director Buddy Pittman have also been let go. Sneed has a long history of domestic violence and was involved in several disputes during his time with the team, SI reported. The Mavericks statement on Ussery also included information about Sneed’s firing. “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,” the Mavericks said.
According to SI, Pittman was hired to “save T from himself,” one employee states, referring to Ussery by his nickname. SI also reports Pittman’s cubicle was “within earshot” of Ussery’s office. Shortly after the sexual misconduct allegations were made public, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told SI: “We just fired our HR person.”