Dallas Mavericks investigating sexual misconduct claims detailed in ‘Sports Illustrated’ story

Dallas Mavericks team president Terdema Ussery, rides in a float during the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks' parade through downtown Dallas, Texas, June 16, 2011.

The Dallas Mavericks released a statement about an hour before a scathing story was published by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday nightthat detailed a work culture that one former team employee called ”a real-life Animal House.”

The Mavericks said in the statement “there is no room for such conduct in the Mavericks’ workplace.”

The story describes the shocking conduct of former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery. Two women told the outlet that Ussery, who left the NBA team in 2015, made requests for sex and touched women’s legs during meetings among other forms of harassment.

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Ussery, whose tenure with the team began before Mark Cuban took ownership in 2000, was subject of an internal investigation after several female employees lodged complaints in the summer of 1998, according to Sports Illustrated.Ussery’s contract was renewed.

“The Dallas Mavericks have received information about behavior in our workplace that appears to have violated the organization’s standards of conduct,” the team said in the statement. “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.”

Cuban called the conduct detailed in the story “abhorrent.”

“It’s not a situation we condone,” Cuban told Sports Illustrated. “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.’ “

The Mavericks said they notified the league office Monday of the allegations and hired an outside counsel to lead an independent investigation. Cuban also said he has fired Buddy Pittman, the team’s vice president of human resources.

“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,” the Mavericks said in the statement.

The Sports Illustrated story also detailed the team’s handling of the domestic assault case against Earl K. Sneed, a writer on whose employment was terminated this week. Sneed was arrested in 2012 on suspicion of assaulting his then-girlfriend, who fractured her right wrist and suffered bruises to her arms and chest.

Sneed was arrested at the NBA team’s facility two months after the incident and eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, according to Sports Illustrated. In the report, Sneed then had another violent incident in 2014 with a fellow Mavericks employee, whose face was left swollen after the assault.

The woman reported the incident with Sneed to her immediate supervisor and Pittman. Pittman informed the woman of Sneed’s prior arrest, according to Sports Illustrated.

“I was aware of it,” Cuban told Sports Illustrated. “I also suggested that we put him through domestic violence training class and then create a zero tolerance policy that included a variety of things … I don’t want this to be incorrect. I don’t want you to think I misled you. We took this very seriously.”

In the statement, the Mavericks said they learned that an employee “misled the organization about a prior domestic violence incident.”

Sneed erased all his tweets and then deleted his account late Tuesday night. His Instagram account was still active.

Late Tuesday, Sneed released a statement to The Dallas Morning News: “While both instances described in the report are damning and language used is not accurate, the two relationships described in the report are not something I am proud to have been a part of. I underwent much counseling after both situations, under the direction of [Mavs vice president of human resources] Buddy Pittman, and I feel like I grew from that counseling. I also signed a contract stating that I would not have one-on-one contact or fraternize with female employees after the inaccurately described incident with my female co-worker, who was a live-in girlfriend.

“I abided by the details of that contract for four years, and received counseling during that period to avoid future instances. I thank Buddy Pittman for helping me to grow during that time, and I thank Mark Cuban for his willingness to help facilitate that growth.”

The NBA issued a statement that read:

“The Dallas Mavericks have informed us of the allegations involving former team president Terdema Ussery and 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.”


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