The NBA needs to send a no-tolerance message to Mark Cuban, Mavericks
Owner’s explanations just don’t justify the corrosive culture that developed with him at the helm
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Somewhere, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is watching Mark Cuban scrambling to answer questions about an epic scandal that has revealed Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks organization was an incubator for both an alleged serial sexual harasser and domestic violence abuser, and belly laughing as he thinks about how critical Cuban was of him in the past.
In March 2014, Cuban predicted both the NFL’s and Goodell’s demise. Not because of ratings, but because of their refusal to deal with certain core issues, particularly chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
“I’m just telling you: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered,” Cuban said then. “And they’re getting hoggy. … When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you’ve got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That’s rule No. 1 of business.”
Cuban also added: “The NFL is going through the innovator’s dilemma. They’re getting disrupted at their own hand by not dealing with certain issues.”
At the time, Cuban was dismissed as a hater. But now Cuban’s words almost seem like a prophecy predicting his own future troubles as he deals with the aftermath of Sports Illustrated’s extremely damning investigative report that highlights the gross mistreatment of women within his beloved Mavericks organization.
According to SI, former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery terrorized numerous female employees for more than a decade and former Mavs.com writer Earl K. Sneed remained employed despite two domestic violence incidents, one of which included the assault of a co-worker. Making matters worse, Buddy Pittman, the senior vice president of human resources, seemed to do nothing more than turn a blind eye to the abuses and misogyny taking place right under his nose. Ussery denied the allegations.
Before addressing Cuban’s response to all this, you know what the most appalling takeaway is from SI’s report? It’s that along the way, as women were reportedly being sexually threatened and physically abused, there seemed to be a collective decision made by the organization that the safety, protection and dignity of women were absolutely meaningless.
Now, Cuban is stepping to the forefront and playing the role of transparent owner. But despite his candor, he doesn’t deserve any cool points and his explanations just don’t justify the corrosive culture that developed with him at the helm.
The NBA must come down hard on Cuban, even though he hasn’t been directly implicated in anything. The Mavericks should be fined, Cuban needs to be suspended for all of next season and the team should have draft picks stripped — notice a plural was used — because of Cuban’s unfathomable, inexcusable negligence. The NBA needs to send a no-tolerance message, and not just some cute talking point.
Cuban’s explanations as to how the Mavs arrived at this crisis point are so unbelievably ignorant and clueless that it’s impossible to be even the slightest bit sympathetic.
For one, Cuban told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that he was “rarely present at the office.” He has denied knowing about Ussery’s alleged transgressions since Cuban bought the team a couple of years after Ussery was investigated for sexual misconduct. But realize Cuban is one of the most involved owners in professional sports. On any given night, Cuban could probably tell you what kind of mouthwash the refs officiating his Mavericks used. Now suddenly he has no idea that his right-hand man was allegedly propositioning women in the organization for sex?
OK, let’s say you buy that Cuban was in the dark about Ussery being an alleged predator. Cuban’s justification for keeping Sneed around is so bad, that in itself is worthy of NBA commissioner Adam Silver completely hammering Cuban.
Cuban told MacMahon: “It was bad, but we made a mistake about the whole thing and didn’t pursue what happened with the police after the fact. So we got it mostly from Earl’s perspective, and because we didn’t dig in with the details — and obviously it was a horrible mistake in hindsight — we kind of, I don’t want to say took his word for it, but we didn’t see all the gruesome details until just recently.”
Cuban also said he did not fire Sneed because “he would go out there and get hired again and do it somewhere else.”
“That’s what I was truly afraid of and that was the discussion we had internally,” Cuban said. “It was a choice between just firing him and making sure that we had control of him.”
So not only did Cuban choose to believe Sneed over an abused woman, he then made the conscious decision to be more concerned about a man who beat women rather than the women who were actually abused.
If that’s the mindset of a billionaire sports owner considered to be one of the more progressive thought leaders in business, how can women ever win?
And even more pessimistically, what’s the point of the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements, powerful social media campaigns that have brought to light the systematic abuses women face, if in the grand scheme the theme remains that the welfare of women just doesn’t matter?
Jemele Hill is a Senior Correspondent and Columnist for ESPN and The Undefeated.