According to an investigative piece published late Tuesday night by Sports Illustrated, former Dallas Mavericks team president and CEO Terdema Ussery has been accused of repeated sexual misconduct over the course of his 18-year tenure with the franchise.
The article detailed multiple instances of inappropriate touching, comments, requests for sexual favors and an organization built to protect him. Ussery had been reported to human resources more than once, and yet he did not face any repercussions and he left on his own accord back in 2015.
Women in the organization reportedly went to HR to report Ussery’s behavior multiple times but it fell on deaf ears. They detailed cases of inappropriate remarks requesting for sex, to touching women’s thighs and calves during meetings. Knowing that HR wouldn’t do anything, some employees began making notes of the uncomfortable situations they found themselves in with Ussery.
Terdema Ussery was an extremely well-regarded sports executive during his tenure. His education includes degrees from Princeton, Harvard and Cal-Berkeley. He practiced law briefly before switching career paths and becoming the commissioner of the CBA. Then, he became the president of the Nike Sports Management division. Following that, Ussery was named president of the Dallas Mavericks. At the time, and throughout the beginning of his tenure, his name was routinely floated as a possible successor to NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Following Ussery’s departure from the Mavs organization, he became the president of Under Armour’s global sports division. There, too, was an allegation of sexual misconduct. According to SI, he made sexual advances to a female employee in an elevator. The woman brought the incident to Human Resources, and less than two months into his Under Armour tenure, he resigned.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, when asked about the allegations said, “It’s wrong. It’s abhorrent. It’s not a situation we condone. I can’t tell you how many times, particularly since all this [#MeToo] stuff has been coming out recently I asked our HR director, ‘Do we have a problem? Do we have any issues I have to be aware of?’ And the answer was no.”
The head of HR that Cuban mentioned, Buddy Pittman, was initially suspended but has since been fired. According to the article, Pittman was hired by the Mavs in the summer of 1998, which coincided with the first round of accusations against Ussery. Following said accusations, the team president kept his job, however the entire organization received a new revamped workplace conduct handbook. The article said that employees at the time did not feel as the accusations against Ussery and the hiring of Pittman was a coincidence.
Sports Illustrated’s article also revealed that the Terdema Ussery was not the only one who behaved inappropriately. One of the beat reporters for the Mavericks website, Earl K. Sneed, had a domestic dispute his girlfriend at the time in 2012. He pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of family violence assault and interference with an emergency request. Sneed remained employed by the organization. Then, two years later, while dating a coworker, he got into physical altercation with her. She showed up to work with a swollen face and reported the incident to her immediate supervisor and Pittman. Nothing came of the conversation.
When the Dallas Morning News reached out to Sneed for comment, he said, “I underwent much counseling after both situations, under the direction of Buddy Pittman, and I feel like I grew from that counseling. I also signed a contract stating that I would not have one-on-one contact or fraternize with female employees after the inaccurately described incident with my female co-worker, who was a live-in girlfriend. I abided by the details of that contract for four years, and received counseling during that period to avoid future instances. I thank Buddy Pittman for helping me to grow during that time, and I thank Mark Cuban for his willingness to help facilitate that growth.”
The Dallas Mavericks organization released a statement prior to the Sports Illustrated piece.
Sneed’s comments thanking Cuban seem to contradict his supposed lack of awareness of these incidents.