NBA releases statement about independent investigation regarding Dallas Mavericks workplace
Mark Cuban agrees to contribute $10M to organizations supporting women’s leadership and development in sports and combating domestic violence
The NBA today issued the following statement about the report by independent investigators regarding workplace conditions at the Dallas Mavericks, following allegations made in a Feb. 20, 2018 Sports Illustrated article:
Upon learning of the allegations, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban notified the NBA and an independent investigation was launched with oversight from the league office. Anne Milgram, former Attorney General of New Jersey, a Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar at New York University School of Law, and currently Special Counsel at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, and Evan Krutoy, who spent more than 20 years as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and currently heads Krutoy Law, P.C., led the seven-month investigation. The league’s oversight function was led by David Anders, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The report was based on information gathered from 215 interviews with current and former Mavericks employees who worked for the team during the past two decades and from the evaluation of more than 1.6 million documents, including emails and other electronic documents.
Following the launch of the independent investigation, the Mavericks, under Mr. Cuban’s direction, hired a new Chief Executive Officer, Cynthia Marshall, a former AT&T senior executive, who has since implemented a massive overhaul to improve the organization’s workplace culture. While the investigation was ongoing, Mr. Cuban and Ms. Marshall took a series of steps to enhance the team’s workplace policies and procedures.
Under Ms. Marshall’s direction, the Mavericks have replaced or added several new leadership positions in the organization, including a new head of Human Resources, a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, a head of Diversity & Inclusion and a new General Counsel.
The Mavericks also instituted mandatory “Respect in the Workplace” training for all employees and ownership; created a confidential hotline for employees to share concerns, issues or allegations of misconduct; and established employee resource teams and an external advisory council to ensure a more diverse and collaborative work environment.
Ms. Milgram’s and Mr. Krutoy’s extensive investigation, with full cooperation from Mr. Cuban and the Mavericks organization, resulted in a detailed understanding of the scope and substance of the issues.
Among the investigation’s key findings:
- The investigation substantiated numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct within the Mavericks organization over a period spanning more than twenty years.
- Among other things, the investigation found:
- Improper workplace conduct toward fifteen female employees by the Mavericks’ former President and CEO Terdema Ussery, including inappropriate comments, touching, and forcible kissing;
- Improper workplace conduct by former Mavericks ticket sales employee Chris Hyde, including inappropriate comments to women of a sexual nature, the viewing and sharing of pornographic images and videos, unsolicited and unwanted sexual advances, and violent and threatening outbursts toward co-workers; and
- Two acts of domestic violence perpetrated by former Mavs.com reporter Earl Sneed, including one against a team employee.
- The investigators concluded that Mavericks’ management was ineffective, including a lack of compliance and internal controls, and that these shortcomings permitted the growth of an environment in which acts of misconduct and the individuals who committed them could flourish. In particular, the investigators found:
- The Mavericks executive leadership team failed to respond adequately and committed a significant error in judgment by retaining Mr. Sneed following his domestic violence incidents; and
- The Mavericks’ executive leadership team was responsible for allowing Mr. Hyde to remain employed with the organization despite his inappropriate and problematic behavior, and failed adequately to address his various acts of misconduct.
- The investigators found no evidence that Mr. Cuban was aware of Mr. Ussery’s misconduct. None of the 215 witnesses who were interviewed stated that they informed Mr. Cuban of Mr. Ussery’s actions, the investigators found no documentary evidence of such a communication, and Mr. Cuban stated that he did not know about the conduct.
The investigation report also contains a series of recommendations for changes to the Mavericks’ organization, including:
- Increasing the number of women on staff, including in leadership positions;
- Enhancing formal reporting processes for victims of misconduct;
- Implementing regular anonymous employee surveys to evaluate workplace culture; and
- Expanding and improving the Mavericks’ Human Resources department and instituting clear protocols for investigating workplace misconduct.
The report confirms that several of these steps have already been taken, including the hiring of Ms. Marshall and other new senior female leaders, and notes that “we heard from employees of a sea change in the professional environment at the Mavericks that began almost immediately following” the publication of the Sports Illustrated article.
In recognition of the institutional and other failures set forth in the report, Mr. Cuban has agreed to contribute $10 million to organizations that are committed to supporting the leadership and development of women in the sports industry and combating domestic violence. These organizations will be selected by an advisory council of leaders from the Mavericks, including Mr. Cuban and Ms. Marshall, and the NBA, including President of Social Responsibility & Player Programs Kathy Behrens, President of Team Marketing & Business Operations and Chief Innovation Officer Amy Brooks, and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Oris Stuart.
Additionally, the NBA is requiring the Mavericks to:
- Provide the league office with quarterly reports regarding the recommendations set forth in the report and their implementation;
- Immediately report to the league office any instances or allegations of significant misconduct by any employee;
- Continually enhance and update annual “Respect in the Workplace” training for all staff, including ownership; and
- Implement a program to train all staff, including ownership, on issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
“The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking and no employee in the NBA, or any workplace for that matter, should be subject to the type of working environment described in the report,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “We appreciate that Mark Cuban reacted swiftly, thoroughly and transparently to the allegations first set forth in Sports Illustrated – including the immediate hiring of Cynthia Marshall as CEO to effect change, but as Mark has acknowledged, he is ultimately responsible for the culture and conduct of his employees. While nothing will undo the harm caused by a select few former employees of the Mavericks, the workplace reforms and the $10 million that Mark has agreed to contribute are important steps toward rectifying this past behavior and shining a light on a pervasive societal failing — the inability of too many organizations to provide a safe and welcoming workplace for women.”
Following the allegations made in the Sports Illustrated article, the NBA conducted a thorough review of its existing policies and procedures related to respect in the workplace, and required all NBA teams to do the same. In addition, the league established a confidential leaguewide hotline for team and league employees to report workplace misconduct including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. While many of the recommendations contained in the investigation report are already part of established practice at the league office, any that are not will shortly be adopted.