Sexual harassment builds toxic workplace culture


By Timothy Rush | Staff Columnist

Sexual harassment is an issue that has been ever-present in society throughout time, and it’s still a very serious one. It is an issue that has plagued American sports leagues, though it has been recently highlighted in the news surrounding the Dallas Mavericks.

On Feb. 20, an investigative report done by Sports Illustrated brought to light various accounts of sexual harassment that took place in the Mavericks’ corporate offices. One female employee retold her experience with then President of the Mavericks Terdema Ussery, where he remarked on her having sexual intercourse with multiple partners. In fact, she’s not alone; another woman came forward and gave her account of how Ussery regularly propositioned her for sex.

While Ussery left the Mavericks in 2015, the environment of misogyny and sexual harassment hasn’t ceased. Instances of alleged public fondling, sexual assault and superiors outright quelling complaints of this behavior have continued. In response to this Sports Illustrated report, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ordered an investigation into his team to drag these horrid experiences into light. This report, released on Sept. 19, confirmed the account by Sports Illustrated.

In response, Cuban has agreed to make a $10 million donation to organizations that help those impacted by domestic violence and others that support women’s leadership and development in the sports industry. While the donation by itself is definitely a noble thing — indeed the organizations are very noble causes — I believe we need to look beyond the simple action of donating, specifically in regards to the motivation of it. While these causes are noble, the reason for donating to them may be far less so.

While Cuban appears to be removed from these events — in fact, he ordered the formal investigation that brought all of this to light—it’s still worth noting that as of right now there is no penalty being weighed against him or the Mavericks following this horrendous line of events.

While the report released by the formal investigation stated Cuban was unaware of this toxic and predatory work environment, it is interesting that Cuban didn’t take a proactive stance to combat the described “corporate culture of misogyny and predatory sexual misconduct,” as described by Sports Illustrated. The excuse given is that he is just not involved to a great extent with the Mavericks’ corporate office, but for someone who has owned the Mavericks since 2000, it is a little hard to believe that he was not, at least, somewhat aware of his own team’s corporate culture.

At best, he was just ignorant of it all, and at worst he was blatantly apathetic to the toxic and misogynistic work environment of the Dallas Mavericks.

We shouldn’t be comfortable with just letting this pass with no punishment levied. Cuban making a $10 million donation is nice, but he is a billionaire. This is a small fraction of his wealth, and the fact that there is yet to be any formal punishment against the Mavericks is outrageous.

We should hold him and his team to a higher standard. He’s the owner of the team, therefore he has the power to initiate positive change for this corporate organization. The NBA shouldn’t let him get off with just throwing out a mere fraction of his wealth to mask the team’s blatant problems of harassment and misogyny, regardless of if he was involved and aware or not.

The Mavericks need to be held responsible for their problematic behavior, so if Cuban really wants to be an ally to women’s leadership and development in the sports industry, he wouldn’t just throw some dollars into the wind. He should vow to fight the predatory culture of his team and proactively fight misogyny and cases of sexual harassment where they occur.