Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban Promises to Root Out Sexual Harassment in His Midst

AP Alex Brandon
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban is promising to “overhaul” the workplace culture of his ball club, after evidence of pervasive sexual harassment emerged from within his organization.

The Mavericks owner and frequently rumored Democrat candidate for president wasn’t himself named as a sexual harasser, but many feel Cuban “must have known” of the broken culture inside the team.

The story, initially reported by Sports Illustrated, alleges that more than a dozen former female employees of the team say they withstood a constant barrage of sexual harassment consisting of rude comments, public fondling, and other inappropriate behavior by male bosses and other employees.

When contacted by SI about the story, Cuban apologized for the problem and replied by saying, “I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you, that it happened under my ownership, and it needs to be fixed. Period. End of story.”

Despite accusations that Cuban “must have known” of the constant abuse female staffers had faced, the team owner told SI that the accusations were “all new” to him:

“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. 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.”

Oddly, Cuban claimed he was unaware of a lawsuit filed against the team by a former female staffer who alleged sexual harassment. After the interview, Cuban contacted the magazine to admit that he was made aware of the lawsuit back in 2014 and that he had just “forgotten” about it.

Cuban exclaimed that the reason he wasn’t aware of the oppressive behavior women faced, was that he only involved himself in the “basketball side” of the team and not the “business side.”

“Yeah, my involvement was on the basketball side. And the basketball and the business side were completely different. I mean, it’s just the truth of the matter is, I deferred to, I had a CEO, and I let them do their job,” he said.

Cuban vehemently denied accusations that he knew of the problem ahead of time. “That’s incorrect. That’s incorrect,” he adamantly said when asked if he knew.

“I did not know. The only thing I ever heard in terms of Terdema was that he had an affair with somebody in the office early on in my tenure and I mean I didn’t think it was appropriate at that time to address somebody on their personal business,” Cuban exclaimed. “I had no inkling. Nobody said a word to be about anything related to harassment in any way shape or form… I mean, Jon, I know it might not sound realistic, but I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations of all my companies, right?”

Cuban told the magazine that he was “thankful” to them for exposing the problem, but again insisted that he was always told there were no such problems in his front office.

The Mavs owner finally promised to address the problem:

“I want to deal with this issue. I mean, this is, I obviously there’s a problem in the Mavericks organization, and we’ve got to fix it. That’s it. And we’re going to take every step. It’s not something we tolerate. I don’t want it. It’s not something that’s acceptable. I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you, that it happened under my ownership, and it needs to be fixed. Period. End of story.”

He concluded the interview promising to bring in a third party to assess the situation and offer solutions.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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