NBA investigates harassment allegations against Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reacts as his team plays the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Feb. 26 in Dallas. | Ron Jenkins / AP

It sadly comes as no surprise that as another week goes by, another billionaire business mogul’s history of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment is laid bare for all to see.

This time around it’s Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and one of the main investors in the reality TV show “Shark Tank.”

The 2011 sexual assault allegations against Cuban, and the decision by prosecutors not to pursue the case, has led to a formal review by the National Basketball Association.

“The NBA league office is reviewing the 2011 allegations against Mark Cuban and the subsequent findings from the Portland police investigation.” So said League spokesperson Mike Bass Wednesday, March 7, after a weekly alternative newspaper in Portland, Oregon, reported a woman’s claim that Cuban put his hands down her pants and touched her inappropriately while taking a photo at a nightclub.

Cuban flatly denied the allegations and provided a prosecutor’s report detailing the decision to not file charges.

“There is no evidence to corroborate the complainant’s statement, and there is evidence contradicting the claim,” read the report, which also indicated that the woman didn’t want to proceed with the allegation.

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle quickly came to Cuban’s defense Thursday, March 8, dismissing the allegations and calling it “fake news”—no surprise there.

“I view that situation as a baseless and journalistically unethical rehashing of a proven non-event,” Carlisle said to reporters in Dallas. “You ever here heard of the term ‘fake news?’ This is the most insidious form.”

Carlisle couldn’t be more wrong.

This isn’t just about Cuban’s inappropriate actions; it’s about the entire culture of sexual harassment—a hostile culture that can be found within the Mavericks organization.

But I’ll get to that later on.

So what happened at the Portland nightclub?

In May 2011, a woman contacted Portland police to report that Cuban had sexually assaulted her at an Old Town club.

She told police that she met Cuban in late April at the Barrel Room and asked him to pose with her for a photo, a typical request when meeting a “celebrity.” As they smiled and the shutter clicked, Cuban shoved his hand down the back of her jeans, she said, and groped her.

After an investigation, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office decided to no press criminal charges due to “insufficient evidence.”

Speaking to the Willamette Week unnamed—because you should never name a victim of sexual assault—she explained that she never went to the media or sought publicity or compensation from Cuban.

“I really left it in the past,” she said.” I haven’t thought about it for seven years… I filed the report because what he did was wrong. I stand behind that report 1,000 percent.”

Nightclub security employee Chris White, 33, said he remembered witnessing Cuban and his entourage at the club, and saw Cuban wrap his arm around the woman for a photo.

“She jumped away like she was not happy with him,” White said in an interview with The Oregonian. “That’s when the energy in the room kind of exploded.”

“He was, like, really kind of gropey toward them,” White added. “It just wasn’t how you’d normally pose in a picture with someone.”

Seven years went by and this stayed under the radar.

So why does it matter now?

Well, for one, victims of sexual assault should never be dismissed or ignored.

Just look at the more than 160 victims of Larry Nassar, former team doctor for USA Gymnastics and now convicted rapist. It could have been prevented, had victims been listened to.

And two, thanks to the #MeToo movement driving the issue forward, Sports Illustrated investigated and released a damning report on the hostile, misogynist workplace culture within the Dallas Mavericks.

Several dozen current and former employees describe the Mavericks’ hostile work environment—from sexual assault to domestic violence—as an “open secret.”

While some sources described the Mavericks office as having a “locker room culture”—another Trumpian defense—the actual locker room was a safe area.

“I dealt with players all the time. I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue…they always knew how to treat people,” said a female former senior staffer. “Then I’d go to the office, and it was this zoo, this complete shitshow. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.”

Several former female Mavericks employees spoke to Sports Illustrated and explained that they left the sports sector workforce because of an environment and culture that left them “feeling devalued while protecting—and continuing to employ—powerful men who misbehaved.”

Alleged public fondling by the team president; open domestic assault by a high-profile mavs.com staff member; and unsupportive or even intimidating responses from superiors—just a few examples of the Mavericks office culture on display.

When contacted by Sports Illustrated, Cuban expressed shock and horror at the accusations, but claimed no knowledge of the office culture.

“This is all new to me,” he said. “The only awareness I have is because I heard you guys were looking into some things….  Based off of what I’ve read here, we just fired our HR person. I don’t have any tolerance for what I’ve read.”

Cuban continued:

“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.”

I’m calling bullshit.

There is absolutely no way Cuban could not have known—as a “hands-on” owner—, and, based on his own personal behavior, turning a blind eye must be an easy thing to do.

Now’s a good time for the “greatest owner in all sports” to step down, own up to his behavior, and fade away.

You can read the full police interview of Mark Cuban here.


CONTRIBUTOR

Al Neal
Al Neal

 

Al Neal is the sportswriter for People’s World focusing on politics and labor relations within the sports industry.  A member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Sports Media Association and the NewsGuild, Neal’s work and reporting has been featured in the Labor-TribuneBuzzfeed NewsRussia Today (RT)Sputnik News Wire, and Getty Images.

   

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