Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has agreed to contribute $10 million to women's organizations but will not face any other punishment stemming from what NBA commissioner Adam Silver called "disturbing and heartbreaking" allegations of harassment and violence toward female employees within the organization, the league announced Wednesday.
The NBA launched an investigation seven months ago following a Sports Illustrated report in February which described "a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior" that spanned decades in the Mavericks' organization, including numerous allegations against former CEO and president Terdema Ussery, who left the Mavericks in 2015.
On Wednesday, the NBA responded to findings from an outside law firm that spoke to 215 current and former Mavericks employees and examined more than 1.6 million documents, emails and text messages.
The investigation found there was "improper workplace conduct" toward 15 female employees by Ussery, including inappropriate comments, touching, and forcible kissing. It also found improper workplace conduct by former ticket sales employee Chris Hyde, including inappropriate comments to women of a sexual nature and the viewing and sharing of pornographic images and videos.
The results of the investigation concluded the Mavericks' management staff was "ineffective, including a lack of compliance and internal controls." It also found that the team's executive leadership not only allowed an improper workplace environment to exist, but also fostered the belief that those participating in that environment could flourish.
"The findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking and no employee in the NBA, or any workplace for that matter, should be subject to the type of working environment described in the report," Silver said in a statement Wednesday. "We appreciate that Mark Cuban reacted swiftly, thoroughly and transparently to the allegations first set forth in Sports Illustrated -- including the immediate hiring of Cynthia Marshall as CEO to effect change."
Cuban, in an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols that aired Wednesday on The Jump, apologized to those who were victims of assault.
"First, just an apology to the women involved," Cuban told ESPN. "... This is not something that just is an incident and then it's over. It stays with people. It stays with families. And I'm just sorry I didn't see it. I'm just sorry I didn't recognize it."
While Cuban himself was not cited in any of the incidents of harassment or misconduct, the NBA said that he didn't pay enough attention to the business culture within the Mavericks' organization.
"As Mark has acknowledged, he is ultimately responsible for the culture and conduct of his employees," Silver's statement said. "While nothing will undo the harm caused by a select few former employees of the Mavericks, the workplace reforms and the $10 million that Mark has agreed to contribute are important steps toward rectifying this past behavior and shining a light on a pervasive societal failing -- the inability of too many organizations to provide a safe and welcoming workplace for women."
Cuban's $10 million donation, which the NBA said in its release is "in recognition of the institutional and other failures set forth in the report," will be earmarked for organizations that promote women's leadership and development in sports as well as those that combat domestic violence, the team said. The maximum fine the NBA office can levy is $2.5 million.
Cuban told ESPN that he takes accountability for not knowing that women in the Mavericks' organization felt unsafe coming to work.
"In hindsight, it was staring me right in the face and I missed it," Cuban told The Jump. "You know ... I wasn't as focused on the business as I should've been."
An emotional Cuban later added: "It just never in my wildest dreams that I think that this was happening right underneath me. And I never -- the pain that people went through, the pain that people shared with me as this happened, the tears that I saw ... It just -- it hurt. And the way I felt is nothing compared to the way they felt. ... I mean, I have to recognize I made a mistake, learn from it and then try to fix it."
The Mavericks held a news conference Wednesday afternoon with Marshall, the Mavericks' new CEO who was hired five days after the SI report, and Anne Milgram, who headed the investigation that included New York-based Krutoy Law.
In the SI report, Ussery was accused of multiple acts of inappropriate behavior, including sexually suggestive comments and inappropriate touching, toward female employees during his 18 years with the team. Employees say complaints were ignored by the head of human resources as well as superiors. Ussery, who was investigated by the team after similar claims in 1998, denied the allegations to SI.
Ussery had been hired by the Mavericks prior to Cuban purchasing a majority stake in the team in January 2000.
Cuban told SI that he fired human resources director Buddy Pittman after learning details of the magazine's report, which included claims that superiors were seen as unresponsive to complaints.
The SI report said team website reporter Earl Sneed was twice accused of domestic assault while working for the Mavericks, including a guilty plea in a case that was dismissed when he met the conditions of the agreement. Sneed also was fired in February, and Cuban told ESPN then that he was solely responsible for the decision to keep Sneed on staff after learning of the second incident, which had been reported to Pittman in 2014.
At the time of the SI report, Cuban said he was not aware of "gruesome details" of the first incident in 2011 that resulted in Sneed being arrested at the Mavericks' office.
"Again, as I said, I was tone-deaf," Cuban said about not firing Sneed earlier. "And I have no excuse. You know there's just -- I should have known better or I could have done better. I've learned and I've just had you know. There's just, no other way to put it."
Milgram, one of the lead investigators and former attorney general in New Jersey, said Cuban didn't know many details of allegations because he was rarely in the club's business office. It is housed away from the home arena and basketball operations.
But when some issues were brought to Cuban's attention, he erred by not acting swiftly, the report said.
"Once those decisions came to him, we found that it was incumbent upon him to get the full information in every decision he made and to get accurate picture of people's conduct and their misconduct,'' Milgram said. "It comes back to the question of you can't be half in and half out on disciplinary decisions.''
Marshall, who also appeared in the interview aired on ESPN's The Jump on Wednesday, told Nichols that she accepted the job after making sure she wasn't "walking into something that really could not be fixed and where, you know, I wasn't working for an owner that didn't share the same values that I share."
After investigating the allegations, Marshall, who was the longtime human resources vice president and chief diversity officer at AT&T, was bothered by what she found.
"What bothers me the most is just the lack of HR responses, the lack of leadership responses," Marshall told ESPN. "I was hearing about things that frankly, actions should have been taken, and people should have been terminated on the spot. ... Just really a horrible culture, and Mark had already warned me. That was my mandate, to transform the culture."
She declared a 100-day plan to transform the culture of the franchise after being hired by the Mavericks. She has enacted sweeping changes in her seven months in charge of the organization, including hiring Tarsha LaCour as senior vice president of human resources and Cynthia Wales as chief ethics and compliance officer and promoting several female employees to executive positions.
"I want to make sure that people know that they matter, and that they're speaking up," Marshall said. "A speak-up culture is really, really big for me. I don't want anybody afraid to tell us what's on their mind."
The NBA said it is requiring the Mavericks to submit quarterly reports on implementing the recommendations in the report. An advisory group that includes Cuban, Marshall and league representatives will determine where the $10 million will go.
After the incident, the NBA said it reviewed its policies and procedures related to respect in the workplace, and required all NBA teams to do the same. The league also established a confidential hotline for team and league employees to report workplace misconduct.
Cuban told ESPN that Silver never discussed him selling the team, nor did Cuban ever consider it himself.
"No," Cuban said. "I don't run away from my mistakes."
ESPN's Tim MacMahon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.