After a seven-month long investigation into the Dallas Mavericks organization, findings confirmed that 15 female Dallas Mavericks employees were sexually harassed by former CEO Terdema Ussery over the last 20 years. The organization and, specifically, its Human Resources department were accused of covering up Ussery’s inappropriate behavior. Although the 43-page report found no evidence that owner Mark Cuban was aware of the misconduct that took place under his leadership, the NBA still holds him accountable for the culture and conduct of his employees.
At the request of the league, Cuban agreed to pay $10 million to advocacy organizations combating mistreatment of women and supporting women’s leadership and development in the sports industry. With the maximum fine that the NBA can enforce being $2.5 million, Cuban’s donation of four times that amount could be seen as a significant gesture towards reparation. Others could argue that the donation is nothing to a billionaire like Cuban and that such a punishment is insufficient compared to the emotional distress that the victims in his organization faced and are now forced to cope with.
It can also be argued that Cuban’s hefty donation was not philanthropic—just an avenue for him to repair the brands that are Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks. However, according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Cuban’s actions in response to the allegations were “swift, thorough and transparent” as he did not shy away from the blame, explaining why he did not get suspended.
In an interview with Rachel Nichols on ESPN’s “The Jump,” Cuban expressed that he had no excuse and could and should have done better as ”the way [he] felt was nothing compared to the way [the victims] felt.” He spoke publicly and took the blame as he should have. He acknowledged that no explanation he could give would matter because it was his responsibility to know what was going on. Cuban also immediately brought in Cynthia Marshall as the Mavs’ new CEO and gave her his full support in transforming the organization’s culture. His urgency, humility, and empathy embodied how a leader should respond to such disturbing allegations.
Though, of course, it would have been preferred by all parties that these actions had taken into effect sooner than later, but Cuban’s sincere sentiments and concrete actions showed world class leadership in such a tragic and disturbing situation. He set the tone for how to address it, and at minimum, it can be agreed that $10 million towards women’s causes does more for the community than a $2.5 million fine paid to the league and a six-month suspension from ownership duties.
According to SportsBusiness Daily, the NBA has also announced that it will be hosting “several events in the coming months designed to help improve workplace cultures, as well as find more ways to have women in leadership roles around the league.” Among these events are workshops about diversity and inclusion within teams’ organizations.