Former Dallas Mavericks president and CEO Terdema Ussery has been accused of multiple incidents of inappropriate behavior toward female employees during his 18 years with the team, according to a Sports Illustrated report.
The report detailed allegations of sexually suggestive comments and inappropriate touching by Ussery, who was allowed to continue to work with the team -- despite numerous complaints to the club's human resources department -- before his departure in 2015.
Shortly before the SI report was published Tuesday night, the Mavericks issued a statement that said they had launched an investigation into allegations of "various acts of inappropriate conduct toward women over a period of years" by a former officer of the organization. The team said the former employee in question left the club almost three years ago and that the organization was only made aware of the allegations in the past few days. It did not name the employee.?
"The Mavericks organization takes these allegations extremely seriously," the team said in the statement. "Yesterday we notified the league office and immediately hired outside counsel to conduct a thorough and independent investigation."
That investigation will be conducted by Krutoy Law. Evan Krutoy, the founder of the New York-based law firm, served as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office for more than 20 years, including a stint as the acting deputy bureau chief of the sex crimes unit.
Owner Mark Cuban addressed the issue during a meeting with business-side employees this week, sources told ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
"It's wrong. It's abhorrent. It's not a situation we condone," Cuban told SI. "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 report says that employees became frustrated by the inaction of Mavericks human resources head Buddy Pittman, who was hired in the summer of 1998 after the first allegations of misconduct by Ussery had been reported. Pittman remains with the team, though the Mavericks said in their statement that they had suspended an employee whose job it was to investigate such allegations.?A source told ESPN that the individual is Pittman, and that he's not expected to return to the organization.
One woman interviewed by SI said that when she complained about Ussery to her superior, former vice president of marketing Paul Monroe, he threatened to fire her if she "didn't shut up and do [your] job," and to just take the abuse from Ussery because "he's the boss." Monroe told SI he did not recall the conversation and that no employee had ever reported inappropriate behavior to him.
The Mavericks also said in their statement that they had fired another employee for providing misleading information about a domestic violence incident. Earl K. Sneed, the team reporter for Mavericks.com, was accused in 2014 of hitting a female colleague with whom he had a relationship, just two years after he had pleaded guilty to assaulting a girlfriend, according to the SI report.
Sneed issued a statement to ESPN later Tuesday.