A Shocking Report Alleges Abuses Within The Dallas Mavericks’ Front Office: ‘It Was A Real Life Animal House’

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A new report from Sports Illustrated details the alleged sexual misconduct and abuse that was rampant throughout some portions of the Dallas Mavericks front office. The key figures in the shocking report were former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery, who left the organization in the summer of 2015, and beat writer Earl K. Sneed who was still with the organization up until Feb. 20, 2018.

The allegations against both men are tough to parse through, with one of the sources referring to the atmosphere in the offices as “a real-life Animal House” and others questioning the role of owner Mark Cuban and the team’s human resources department.

Under Ussery, the corporate setting at the Mavericks was allegedly rife with misconduct and harassment, with details that would rival those shared about disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein according to Sports Illustrated:

Interviews with more than a dozen former and current Mavericks employees in different departments, conducted during a months-long SPORTS ILLUSTRATED investigation, paint a picture of a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior: alleged public fondling by the team president; outright domestic assault by a high-profile member of the staff; unsupportive or even intimidating responses from superiors who heard complaints of inappropriate behavior from their employees; even an employee who openly watched pornography at his desk…

While sources referred to the Mavericks office as a “locker room culture,” the team’s actual locker room was a refuge. Says one female former senior staffer: “I dealt with players all the time. I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue…they always knew how to treat people. Then I’d go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete shitshow. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.”

As one of the sources told Sports Illustrated, “You don’t feel safe going to work and it’s not long before you look for another job…And then you wonder why there aren’t more women working in sports.”

Ussery himself was at the center of many of the allegations. One source alleged he would corner and proposition female employees, would place his hands on their thighs, and even reportedly telling a female employee eating dinner in the American Airlines Center that she was “going to get gang-banged” the following weekend.
The allegations against Sneed in the report do not paint a better picture, with the former freelancer and beat writer being charged with assault against his girlfriend during the 2010-2011 season:

Midway through that season, Sneed was involved in a domestic dispute with a girlfriend. According to a Dallas police report, Sneed “sat on top of her and slapped her on the face and chest.” At one point he told the woman, “I’m going to f—— kick your ass. Today is gonna be the worst day of your life.” Sneed, according to the report, “fled before the reporting officer arrived.” The woman, according to the report, suffered a fractured right wrist and bruises on her arms and chest in the altercation.

Two months later, Sneed was arrested at the Mavericks facility and charged with assault, a class A misdemeanor. On June 28, 2012, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of family violence assault and interference with emergency request. He was sentenced to a $750 fine, supervised community service, and enrollment in an anger management program. Upon completion of his sentence, the charges were dismissed. (Contacted by SI, Sneed declined comment.)

The assault charges did affect Snead’s position with the team, as he was barred from entering Canada when the team played Toronto, but he was not removed from his job. He would later allegedly date a fellow Mavericks employee and strike her too, with the victim reporting the incident to HR. But Sneed was once again not removed from his job.

Sneed responded to the Sports Illustrated report in a statement to The Dallas Morning News (via SportsDay):

“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 lack of action reportedly raised many eyebrows within the organization, particularly the response from Buddy Pittman, the head of the team’s HR department. Sports Illustrated also quotes sources who question how much owner Mark Cuban knew about the allegations and why they believe he might’ve turned the other way, pointing to revenue for the team.

Cuban denied this when contacted by Sports Illustrated and claimed to be surprised by the report. Additionally, he made a promise to fix the organization:

“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.”

Pittman was indeed fired shortly before Sports Illustrated‘s report was published, following up on the team’s official statement before the report went live. Cuban also noted that Sneed had been suspended on Monday and was fired by Tuesday, with his social media reflecting his new status:

Ussery denied the allegations against him in a statement to Sports Illustrated, but the report added that similar allegations followed him to his next position at Under Armour and he “abruptly resigned” after only two months in his position.

For Cuban, he told Sports Illustrated that the organization needs to fix these problem spots and followed up with an email outlining “third party counseling and support services available to any current and former Mavericks employees.” Cuban also said that he was embarrassed that these allegations happened under his ownership.

UPDATE: Via Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix, the NBA has issued a statement.

(Via Sports Illustrated/SportsDay)

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