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Dallas Mavericks’ Animal House Culture A Stain On The Sports World

According to a story published in Sports Illustrated , former Dallas Mavericks team president and CEO Terdema Ussery was a menace to women subordinates. So much so, that everyone, men and women, were afraid to challenge him.

One story, recounted by a woman who worked for the Mavs during the 2010-11 season, describes an incident in which she was asked of her plans over the weekend before saying Youre going to get gang-banged, arent you?

Sports Illustrated on Twitter

Exclusive: Inside the corrosive workplace culture of the Dallas Mavericks (by @jon_wertheim and @jessicawluther) https://t.co/ZXyhRLQKS3

Im going to pause right there for dramatic effect. Indeed, the manner that men learn and are taught to manifest themselves in a patriarchal society has caused a great burden of trauma to be visited upon women for simply being women.

No, the woman responded, caught off-guard. Actually, Im going to the movies with friends.

No, Ussery insisted. Youre definitely getting gang-banged.

The employee says she was actually warned about Ussery via some friends with knowledge of his dealings. 

Before you say it, no! Rumors arent enough for someone to turn down a job. Especially not in a right-to-work state like Texas. 

Mavericks President and C.E.O. Terdema Ussery Feature

Mavericks President and C.E.O. Terdema Ussery Feature

However, for others, working in such an environment was out of the question. The SI article reveals another woman, who also spoke under anonymity, quit her job in sales due to his behavior and awful mannerisms.

It was a real life Animal House, says one former organization employee who left recently after spending roughly five years with the Mavs. And I only say was because Im not there anymore. Im sure its still going on.

Ussery left the Mavericks in 2015.  However, a culture of misogyny doesnt simply evaporate overnight, and certainly not in three yearsI dont care what the hell ownership and brass say to the contrary.

The Sports Illustrated investigation was months in the making and is believed to reveal a festering environment of corporate corruption, predatory sexual behavior, domestic assault by a high-ranking member of the Mavs staff, and one employee who openly watched porn at his desk.

Most sources did not want their names used for a variety of reasons including fear of retaliation, ostracization and limits imposed by agreements they signed with the team.

Dallas Mavericks on Twitter

The Dallas Mavericks issue the following statement on an upcoming Sports Illustrated article: https://t.co/GQ8bOHTBln

While sources referred to the Mavericks office as a locker room culture, the teams 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 issuethey always knew how to treat people. Then I’d go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete shit-show. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.

According to some of the six female former Mavs or American Airlines Center employees contacted by Sports Illustrated claiming to have left the Mavs because of this environment, the franchise appeared to devalue the accuser while protecting the powerful men who misbehaved.

There was built-in protection for a lot of men, says a former male department head at American Airlines Center. The lack of oversight and compassion within all levels of the business was alarming.

You dont feel safe going to work and its not long before you look for another job, says one of those women, now employed in a different sector. And then you wonder why there arent more women working in sports. Really?

Ussery, the former commissioner of the CBA and one-time president of Nike Sports Management, has credentials as long as Dirks arm. 

By the time Ussery left Nike to become CEO of the Mavericks in 1997, his name was openly floated as a future NBA Commissioner. Which suited the incumbent, David Stern, just fine. Ussery has done it all at the team, league and corporate level, Stern told Black Enterprise in September 2003. For more than a decade, Ussery served as the Mavs alternate governor with the NBA.

The New York Times on Twitter

The Dallas Mavericks have hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation after a report that a former team president had engaged in “various acts of inappropriate conduct toward women” https://t.co/FvAgjDXamf

But back in the summer of 1998, the Mavericks conducted an internal investigation of Ussery after several female employees made complaints of inappropriate workplace behavior.

Ussery was retained, but shortly thereafter the entire Mavericks workforce received revamped employee handbooks that included a new sexual harassment policy. Buddy Pittman, a new head of H.R., was hired by the Mavs that summer as well, no coincidence according to multiple team sources. 

They basically brought [Pittman] in to save T from himself, says one former employee, referring to Ussery by his nickname. She noted as well that Pittmans cubiclehe did not have a private workspacewas within earshot of Usserys office.

When asked at the time about his alleged misconduct by the local media, Ussery deflected and responded tersely: “It’s been addressed. I really don’t want to elaborate any further. What were focused on is building a great organization. That was and is our focus.

In February 1999, he received a threeyear contract extension. When Mark Cuban purchased the Mavericks in 2000, Ussery remained the team president.

I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me, Ussery said in a statement to SI on Tuesday. During my career with the Mavericks, I have strived to conduct myself with character, integrity and empathy for others.

“During my nearly 20 year tenure with the Mavericks, I am not aware of any sexual harassment complaints about me or any findings by the organization that I engaged in inappropriate conduct. In fact, on multiple occasions I and other senior executives at the organization raised concernsboth in person and in emailsabout other Mavericks employees who had engaged in highly inappropriateand in some cases, threateningsexual conduct. The organization refused to address these concerns, and I believe these misleading claims about me are part of an attempt to shift blame for the failure to remove employees who created an uncomfortable and hostile work environment within the Mavericks organization.

Sports Illustrated on Twitter

A former employee on the corrosive workplace culture of the Dallas Mavericks: https://t.co/BmlL6Sr1S3

And so, instead of making formal complaints to HR, at least two women began taking contemporaneous notes on their unpleasant exchanges with Ussery and other male colleagues. They shared their written accounts with SI. A sampling of their entries:

August/September 2007: Terdema stops me near where the main door is and says to me seriously just one time.

Jan. 17, 2008: Terdema asks me if in another life would I marry him? I respond if it was another life I would be a millionaire and own this team and he couldnt handle working for me.

August 12, 2013: One woman recorded that she complained to her boss, Paul Monroe, then the Mavericks VP of marketing, about a culture unfriendly to womenciting Usserys behavior specifically. According to her notes, Monroe said hed drive her to a meeting. Once they were settled in his car, Monroe threatened to fire her if she didnt shut up and do [your] job, telling her to just take the abuse from Ussery, adding hes the boss. Wrote the woman, I felt threatened not only for my safety but he was threatening my position within the company.

The part that really, really gets under my skin is THIS WAS A BROTHER! I know skin color shouldnt matter, and that this is a disease of the powered and privileged, but brothers have a hard enough time getting through a day without being accused or suspected of something. 

For some dude, somewhere working hard and deserving of climbing the corporate ladder, Ussery has made life much worse.

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