On Wednesday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban appeared on The Jump to discuss the findings from an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and violence against women in the Mavericks organization. An edited transcript of Rachel Nichols' interview with Cuban appears below:
RACHEL NICHOLS: Mark, I appreciate you being here. I want to get your reaction to this report as it came out.
MARK CUBAN: First, just an apology to the women involved. The women that in a couple cases were assaulted and not just to them, but their families, because 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. And I just hope that out of this, you know, we'll be better, and we can avoid it, and we can help make everybody just smarter about the whole thing.
NICHOLS: You run an NBA franchise where you've talked a lot publicly about how you know everything that goes on there. You did know of a few of these isolated incidents. But even the best case scenario of you not knowing, the best version of it is that women in your office felt unsafe coming to work, that they made official complaints to human resources, that they were threatened, they were not promoted. If you just didn't know any of this, how do you explain that?
CUBAN: I mean, I didn't know, and I don't have an explanation. You know I can give you lots of reasons, but they don't matter. It was my responsibility, and I have to be accountable for it.
NICHOLS: I think it's hard for some people to reconcile because you are respected as a smart businessman. You have a television show, and your billing on that television show is that you're a great businessman. So how do you match that up with what you're telling me here?
CUBAN: In hindsight, it was staring me right in the face, and I missed it. I wasn't as focused on the business as I should've been. You know when I talk about being actively involved, I could tell you every salary of everybody, every NBA player over the last 15 years. I would talk to Rick and our coaches over the years, and be there at practices, and be there on the basketball side, day in day out live it. If I was in our business office five times in 15 years, that was a lot, you know. It's embarrassing to say. There were people who I just hadn't met and hadn't talked to.
NICHOLS: There are a lot of emails of you asking about ticket sales and marketing, so there are business-side functions you were very involved in.
CUBAN: No question. It all ties back to the basketball: How are we going to fill the arena? And that was important to me. And that's where I had my greatest expertise, and I had a CEO that I defer to, and that was a mistake.
NICHOLS: I want talk about the CEO, who is one of the large focuses of this investigation -- the dozen or so women who were victimized by Terdema Ussery. He was the man who was the Mavs' CEO for 15 of the 18 years that you owned the team. And I want to read off some of this: He was cornering subordinates in elevators. Or he would kiss them. Or he would stick his hand between their thighs. And it's clear in the report that you didn't know about that. The investigators interviewed 215 people. They looked through thousands of emails. I think the public can be assured you didn't know about that. Not one of the women said they came to you directly. But what you did know is that when you bought the team, that he had already been accused of some of this stuff, and accused publicly enough that it made it into the local media.
CUBAN: I didn't know that.
NICHOLS: How do you not know that when you buy the team? It was in the newspapers. It was on the radio.
CUBAN: Yeah, I mean, I literally did not know it. This was in 1998, and I was running Broadcast.com, which I was sleeping and breathing. I was a season-ticket holder and went to games, but I had no idea. From the time I talked to Ross Perot to the time I bought the team in January of 2000 was less than six weeks. Should I have done due diligence? Should they have disclosed it? Yes. You know, it was just this was a dream come true. And you know, should I have interviewed Terdema to make sure he'd be a good CEO and there weren't issues? Yeah. And I didn't. I was just excited to buy the Mavs. It just never dawned on me that within my own company, within the Mavericks, that no one would reach out to me.
NICHOLS: But do you understand why? With this public presence you projected as being this tough boss, and then also with him being kept in that position for so long?
CUBAN: Look, we did a lot of things wrong. And I wasn't there to oversee him. And so, yeah, everybody has every reason to question me. But I just wasn't there. And that was my fault.
Cuban apologizes to woman affected by employees' behavior
Owner Mark Cuban issues an apology to the women who were subjected to physical abuse and sexual harassment by Mavericks employees.
NICHOLS: When you read through the report and you really read the details of things that you hadn't known about before, what stood out to you as the most difficult? Of what people had to go through?
CUBAN: Just the pain that they had to go through, at my company. It was the same way I felt when I stood in front of Mavs employees for the first time, after this came out. And I apologized to them. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this was happening right underneath me. 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 have to recognize I made a mistake, learn from it and then try to fix it.
NICHOLS: Was there a person who talked to you, or sat across from you or someone who you've read about, that it stuck with you?
CUBAN: It was just the looks on people's faces when I was sitting -- when I first met with Mavs employees after this happened -- and I didn't know how bad an actor Terdema was. And so I didn't know the degrees of everything. But I could just see it in everybody's face. And these are people that I barely knew, which is just bad enough that it just tore me apart. I mean, there's no other way to explain it.
NICHOLS: The Sports Illustrated article comes out. You're quoted right away. You said, "this stuff isn't acceptable. This matters to me." Also though, investigators found that through an intermediary, you reached out to Terdema Ussery. And the message you had passed along to him is "don't worry I won't throw you under the bus."
CUBAN: Well, context matters.
NICHOLS: That's why I'm asking about it
CUBAN: Right, so when it first happened, like I said, I had no idea how bad it was. I talked to two people who I asked to go to Terdema's former assistant, and I said, "Look, pending everything that happens with the investigation, I don't want to get in a PR shouting match." And it wasn't like we were trying to hide anything, because I told investigators that I did it, you know.
NICHOLS: You can understand how that sentence doesn't sit well when you read it on a piece of paper.
CUBAN: I know. I understand that completely. But again, that's why I was very forthright when the investigators -- I volunteered that to them. It wasn't about them asking me.
NICHOLS: One of the other employees that I know [the investigators] talked to you about is Chris Hyde. He was a high-ranking ticket sales official within the company. And again I'm just going to read this so I get it right: "regularly pressing his co-workers for sex." He would try to kiss them. In one incident he actually licked a woman's face. He regularly viewed pornography at his desk. But instead of firing him, his superiors moved his desk to a different side of the office, against the wall, so that not that many people would see the pornography as he was showing it to other people in the office.
CUBAN: Yeah, I didn't know about that.
NICHOLS: You were notified about the pornography on his computer. In 2008, there was an email trail for that. And you wrote him an email saying, "Hey, you better stop this or I'll fire you."
CUBAN: Yes. On the spot. Right.
NICHOLS: Did you ever follow up to see if he had stopped it?
CUBAN: Well, I got reports back saying he was on probation and that he was being dealt with. So I just assumed it was being dealt with. I didn't have any reason to think otherwise.
NICHOLS: So three years after that, after that email exchange with Hyde, one day he left the office for a two-hour lunch and, again, I'm going to just read this to get the details right: "He returned, and a used condom with bodily fluids in it fell out of his pants leg and onto the office floor for other employees to discover." And again you were notified about this in writing. And your response, the email was that somebody should talk to him. Put him on probation or something. But quote, "Don't make this a bigger deal than it is."
CUBAN: Obviously, that's a huge mistake on my part. I was under the impression that the first issue with pornography was resolved, and obviously wasn't. And I also said if anything happens again, he's fired.
NICHOLS: Wouldn't this qualify?
CUBAN: Well, that was three years earlier, and I hadn't had any follow-up. From my perspective, there were no other issues. But, again, in hindsight, it was stupid on my part.
NICHOLS: I mean, when you read it in black and white, and I say it sitting here across the table and say it for you...
CUBAN: No, it's ridiculous. I messed up. I should have just fired him on the spot. It was a huge mistake. There's no way to downplay it, and if someone showed me this from another company and asked me to read it, I would say you can't make a bigger mistake, because that destroys the whole culture of your organization. And every time I go talk to people about business, I talk about culture. I don't have any excuses. I'm not trying to justify it. It's just I made a bad mistake, and it's not the only one I've said that I made.
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Mark Cuban is emotional discussing the hardest part of reading the report investigating abuse and harassment toward female Mavericks employees.
NICHOLS: I do want to ask you about Earl Sneed, who you just mentioned. And frankly this is the one I have to tell you, Mark. I've known you for years and years, and when I read what happened here, I can't put together how the person I know and I've talked to for a long time OK'd a lot of this stuff. And for people who aren't familiar, Sneed was the team beat writer for the Mavericks' team website.
CUBAN: One of them.
NICHOLS: And he was arrested outside the office, right at work, for beating his fiancée so badly he left her visibly bruised and with a broken wrist. She went to the hospital for it. He pled guilty to that in court. And you not only didn't fire him, you offered to pay his legal expenses.
CUBAN: Well, no... OK, that's not from my -- the information I had was just coming from Earl.
NICHOLS: His fiancée emailed you directly also, though, according to the investigation.
CUBAN: Right, the information I had, though, came, you know... I sent it back to H.R. And then the information I got was from Earl. And again, one to multiple mistakes applies here: I took his word, we didn't follow up, I didn't request an investigation. I didn't ask for the police report. I deferred to the CEO.
NICHOLS: There was a second incident though. He then started actually dating a fellow co-worker. And because you guys hadn't even suspended him or anything, the women in the office didn't know that he was someone who had beaten up his fiancée and who had broken her bones. And the other Mavericks employee... he got violent with her. She came to work the next day with visible bruises and swelling in her chest and face and arms. And she said she didn't feel safe in the office. And again, you guys didn't fire him. And this is where I break down again on why.
CUBAN: Again, in hindsight I would have done it differently. But, young African-American man, and this is 2014, and I had a decision to make. And the decision was, do I just fire him? And my fear -- and it's documented in the report, and talking to the investigators -- my fear if I just said, 'OK you're fired,' what are you going to do next? And what happens to the next person? And that's what I was thinking to myself. And so I set a series of rules for him, that he had to be accompanied. He had to go to counseling, and there were a variety of things to keep an eye on him.
NICHOLS: I know I'm not the first person to point out to you that you could have removed him from the workplace and still gotten him counseling.
CUBAN: In hindsight you're exactly right. I'm just telling you what I thought, and I said the same thing publicly, and I said the same thing to investigators: If I had to do it all over again I would fire him and still get him counseling.
NICHOLS: Now that you have gone through all of this, what message do you now know that this sent the other women in the office?
CUBAN: Oh, it was horrible.
NICHOLS: You basically told them, 'Hey, one of the guys in this office can hit you and we will still keep him here, coming to the office and sitting next to you.'
CUBAN: I was tone deaf. And I have no excuse. I should have known better, or I could have done better. I've learned. There's just no other way to put it.
NICHOLS: In talking to you and reading all this, it does seem like another real lesson that you have absorbed through this is that it's not just about these specific behaviors, it's about the environment you set up. As recently as the beginning of this calendar year, the report details that in your business office 70 percent of the employees were male. Only 30 percent were female. There were zero women who were at the executive level to where they would be in the top-level meetings. There were zero people of color. And that even the women who did work there -- their salaries were not competitive with the commensurate men who did those jobs at other NBA franchises. What kind of environment do you think that set up in your business atmosphere? About the worth of women?
CUBAN: Obviously not a good one. And once it came to my attention, we immediately jumped to fix it. It wasn't acceptable. It's not something that's going to happen going forward. We immediately stepped in and brought in a CEO who brought all of this to my attention. And I gave her carte blanche to do what she needed to do because it's not right -- and it's not even good business. And so we were doing everything possible to fix it.
NICHOLS: One of the things the NBA announced today is that you personally will donate $10 million to women's organizations, and that is going to strike some people as very significant, because the maximum the league can fine a team owner is $2.5 million. So that's four times that amount. It will strike some people as, 'Hey, this guy is a billionaire. That's not that significant at all. Didn't lose his team. He didn't lose any of the more basketball-related things.' What do you think of that decision?
CUBAN: I think more important than the money is the example we can set. Because there hasn't been anybody who really has had to go through this and set the tone. What's the right way to respond? And what's the right thing to do? And so the goal even more than the money is for me to get out there and teach others from my experiences.
NICHOLS: Was there any point throughout this where Adam Silver discussed with you selling the team?
NICHOLS: Was there ever a point you considered it yourself?
CUBAN: No. I don't run away from my mistakes.
NICHOLS: I know the day the Sports Illustrated article came out you addressed the Mavericks employees at the office. There are former employees mentioned in this report who felt they had to leave the company. Things were so bad they had to leave the profession because they couldn't get another job after unceremoniously leaving your company. Have you called to talk to any of them to apologize?
NICHOLS: Should you?
CUBAN: Well, I don't know the circumstances. I don't know any of the individuals themselves because of the way the report is structured.
NICHOLS: If one of those employees wants to identify herself and come to you to get some closure, are you open to that?
CUBAN: Yeah, I talked to the investigators because, again, I don't know what promises they made. I just don't know if I'd be the right person to try to solve it.
NICHOLS: I wouldn't be surprised if somebody would like to talk to you personally.
CUBAN: I'm not closing any doors yet. I just don't want to violate the privacy.