DALLAS (CN) – Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban apologized Wednesday to victims of sexual harassment in the team’s front office, pledging to donate $10 million to women’s groups after the release of highly critical results from an independent investigation into the scandal.
Conducted by the law firms of Lowenstein Sandler LLP and Krutoy Law P.C., the investigation found “substantiated numerous instances” of sexual harassment and other “improper workplace conduct” for almost 20 years in the pro basketball team’s front office.
It singles out former team president and chief executive officer Terdema Ussery as a “serial harasser” who allowed a “deeply problematic employee” to intimidate and threaten other employees for over a decade without consequences. Ussery left the Mavericks in 2015 and has steadfastly denied the allegations.
“Our investigation found that during his time at the Mavericks, Ussery engaged in improper workplace conduct toward fifteen current and former employees,” the 46-page report states. “Ussery’s conduct ranged from inappropriate comments to touching to forcible kissing, and varied in severity and scope.”
The independent investigation was launched by the Mavericks and the National Basketball Association soon after Sports Illustrated published claims in February by current and former front office employees of a corrosive and misogynist work environment where race and gender discrimination were rampant. Ussery was accused of asking female employees for sex several times.
No Mavericks players or coaches or Cuban were accused of engaging in the harassing conduct, but the report concluded Cuban committed “significant errors in judgment” regarding disciplinary issues that he often lacked “full or accurate information” on.
Cuban said Wednesday he is “just sorry I did not recognize” the toxic culture.
“First, just an apology to the women involved,” Cuban said during a televised interview on ESPN. “This is not something that is just one incident and then it is over. It stays with people, it stays with families. I am just sorry I did not see it.”
Cuban said “in hindsight it was staring me right in the face and I missed it” and that he “was not as focused on the business as I should have been.”
He emotionally said that his pain is nothing compared to “the pain that people shared with me as this happened” and that he has to “recognize I made a mistake, learn from it and then try to fix it.”
Over 1.6 million documents and 215 interviews were conducted during the investigation, according to the NBA.
League commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday the findings are “disturbing and heartbreaking” and that no employee in any workplace should be subjected to such a work environment.
“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,” he said.
The report concludes that female employees “had a valid reason to believe that curbing sexual harassment was not a priority” in the organization and that several incidents were never reported because they thought it would “at best, be useless and, at worse, would hurt their careers.”
The findings come nearly six months after a former employee at the Mavericks’ arena, the American Airlines Center near downtown Dallas, filed to depose Cuban about what knowledge he has about several hostile workplace allegations.
The petitioner claims she was told Cuban personally threw away a hangman’s noose displayed in the office and that no company-wide sensitivity training was ordered.