We’ve got it hot for billionaires in the United States, especially the ones that almost seem cool. Unlike robotic Mark Zuckerberg and nerdy Bill Gates, Mark Cuban is a cool billionaire. He does Shark Tank. He talks candidly about politics and wealth. He loves basketball so much that he owns the Dallas Mavericks. But that’s where the illusion of billionaire likability is shattered. A report released Wednesday details a culture of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct going back 20 years within the Mavericks organization. Rightfully so, Cuban is in the hot seat.
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In February, Sports Illustrated published a story about misogyny, harassment, and deeply inappropriate behavior at the top levels of the Dallas Mavericks, naming former CEO Terdema Ussery and others as predatory figures. After that bombshell, Cuban hired a new CEO, Cynthia Marshall, to make changes and the upper ranks were purged of questionable men. An independent investigation was announced, the results of which were just made public.
The new investigation is damning. Fifteen women accused Ussery of inappropriate comments and touching. Employees said account executive Chris Hyde watched porn in his office, among other inappropriate behavior including a “condom incident.” He was not fired in a timely manner. Management did not properly deal with a Mavericks website writer accused twice of domestic violence (he wasn’t fired until SI broke the story). In general, numerous reports of sexual harassment went unaddressed by those in charge. Deadspin has a full run-down here.
Cuban got away fairly clean in the investigation. It found he did not know about Ussery, but did make “errors in judgement” when it came to other issues. He won’t face any major penalties from the NBA. Cuban said he will make a $ 10 million donation to organizations supporting working women and victims of domestic violence, USA Today reports. In an interview Wednesday with ESPN‘s Rachel Nichols, he apologized.
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“First, just an apology to the women involved,” Cuban said. “This is not something that just is an incident and then it’s over. It stays with people. It stays with families. And I’m just sorry I didn’t see it. I’m just sorry I didn’t recognize it.”
But it’s not as clean and simple as that. Nichols acknowledged that none of the women interviewed in the report said they had gone to Cuban with complaints. But then she pressed him on another point: When Cuban bought the team in 2000, local media had already done reporting on similarly alarming accusations made against then-CEO Ussery.
“I literally did not know that,” Cuban responded. He admitted he should have done due diligence, he should have interviewed Ussery himself, he should have been informed by Mavericks management before the sale. But he didn’t. And until Ussery left the Mavericks in 2015, the CEO helped create an uncomfortable and even dangerous workplace for women.
“It just never dawned on me that within my own company, within the Mavericks, that no one would reach out to me,” Cuban told Nichols. “I wasn’t there to oversee him. Everybody has every reason to question me, but I just wasn’t there. And that was my fault.”
As owner, Cuban had a responsibility to the women (and men) who make his team run, just like he is responsible for the stars running up and down the court. He was not a present owner when there were plenty of signs indicating he should have been. He did not consider if his employees would feel comfortable reaching out to him. He gave excuses—he wasn’t around enough; no one told him personally—for an inexcusable lack of oversight in his organization.
If Cuban’s image can’t bounce back from this one, that’s a good thing. NBA owners should be looking into their own organizations for fear they mirror the Mavericks. Our most famous billionaires are employers, first and foremost.