The Dallas Mavericks and Sexual Harassment in the NBA
Earlier this week John Wertheim and Jessica Luther of Sports Illustrated published an article titled "Inside the Corrosive Workplace Culture of the Dallas Mavericks". The piece was centered around then president and CEO of the Mavericks, Tardema Ussery. Ussery was one of many men implicated in some disgusting practices said to be common within the organization, including physical and verbal sexual harassment and other predatory behaviours. The Sports Illustrated team, through testimony of those who suffered this abuse, paints a picture of troubling misogyny and abuse of power. One victim referring to their time with the team as "a real life animal house". It's obvious that the men participating in this behavior are living pieces of shit, we all know that, fuck those guys. What's also clear is that it's not solely the ones doling out the abuse that are guilty in this situation. Throughout the article we find out that nearly everyone who passed through the team's system knew about the organization's dark side. From an employee viewing pornography at his desk to actual domestic assault charges laid against one of the team's beat writers, the scope of inappropriate activity was broad and seemingly tolerated. Now it seems their little secret wasn't so well kept.
This leads us to those who knew about the actions of these men, had the power to stop them, and didn't. This leads us to Mark Cuban. Cuban is known around the league as the most hands on owner in the association. Often outspoken and unafraid to tell us how he really feels, Cuban regularly draws the attention of the league. Most recently, his comments about the Mavs tanking have earned him a $600,000 fine. It's very clear that he's deeply involved in the organization, and when HR has dealt with certain employees on multiple occasions it's impossible to believe that the man who hired them does not know about it. Something could have been done and excusing Mark Cuban as simply ignorant is difficult for me. In the case of Donald Sterling and his blatant racism, we saw the league force the sale of the Clippers, which left Sterling's pockets filled but also removed the despicable man from the NBA. In this case however, the punishment, if any, will not be so clear. Cuban has come out saying that he is ashamed that this all unfolded on his watch, he's accepted blame and promises to do better. That's a good start, but if proof surfaces that Cuban was aware of the extent of the behaviour being reported, I believe the price to pay should be far more than a slap on the wrist.
As the details are further illuminated it is being reported that the toxic culture of the Mavericks front office, as far as we know, stayed there. With these awful stories coming to light, the organization is cast into darkness, and for the truly innocent a bad taste left in their mouths. Many people often point to athletes and their locker rooms as a place of sexual frivolity, unbridled machismo, and moral ambiguity; this however is an outdated and inaccurate view, and is far from the case in Dallas. Players and coach alike have already expressed disgust, Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki calling the situation "heartbreaking". It's hard to say if the team's disappointment in their management will translate into change, but it is extremely important that the men who represent the team on the court show their support for the victims and denounce the actions of those who wronged them.
The league's response has been clear. The NBA does not stand for this kind of behaviour. As the Mavericks fund an independent investigation into the workplace conduct of the front office, the league will closely monitor the team and comb through the findings so that hopefully the people involved get what they deserve. One thing it is safe to assume is that this kind of unjust behaviour is everywhere, not just Hollywood. The "Me Too" movement is only beginning and sport is not immune to the abuse of power exhibited in the world of the silver screen. To help those affected, commissioner Adam Silver announced in a memo sent to all 30 teams, that the NBA has established an anonymous help line for victims of workplace misconduct to report abuse safely. This is a huge step for the league and as the rug is rolled back we're sure to see just how much dirt our precious teams have swept away.
This whole situation is saddening, and we never like to see the league we love tainted by the actions of a few men, but it is important that we shine a light on the ugly corners in order to clean them up and do right by those who have been wronged. The movement is young and we need to be thorough. The goal is to empower victims, identify perpetrators and change the way the world works when it comes to people in power positions acting maliciously or turning a blind eye. Finally, we need to thank those brave enough to speak up. They are the first, they are the ones who are going to change things forever, and they are the ones who need our support the most.