When Sports Illustrated published its exposé last month on the rampant sexual harassment, misogyny and even domestic abuse inside the Dallas Mavericks organization, the man at the heart of those allegations, former Mavs CEO Terdema Ussery, said in a statement, “I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me.”
Well, Melissa Weisenhaupt, a marketing manager for the Mavericks from 2010-14, is no longer anonymous. “I was one of the women Terdema harassed and who spoke to Sports Illustrated for the story,” she wrote, before setting her sights on Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s failure to identify the issue.
“I found myself skeptical of owners and CEOs who prided themselves on knowing the most minute details of their organization but who suddenly claimed to be clueless about a hostile workplace culture,” Weisenhaupt wrote, joining the #MeToo movement with her open letter in Sports Illustrated.
Cuban feigned ignorance to SI with respect to Ussery’s alleged sexual harassment. “I was involved in basketball operations,” he said, “but other than getting the financials and reports, I was not involved in the day to day [of the business side] at all. That’s why I just deferred. I let people do their jobs. And if there were anything like this at all I was supposed to be made aware, obviously I was not.”
And Weisenhaupt called Cuban on it.
“I’m using my name because I’m still not sure the Mavericks get it,” she wrote. “Since the story broke, owner Mark Cuban has repeatedly claimed he oversaw only the basketball side of that franchise, not the business side.
“Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. You own 100 percent of the team, Mark. The buck stops with you. When I worked on the Mavs’ business side, all marketing, promotional and broadcasting decisions went through you. Nothing was decided without your approval.
“I am using my name because I am convinced that Cuban still doesn’t recognize the culture he’s helped create or the plight of the women who still work for him. From where I sit, Mark’s response was to rush in like some white knight in a T-shirt and jeans and yell, ‘Don’t worry, ladies of the Mavs, I will help you with paid counseling and a hotline you can call!'”
In response to allegations of misconduct in his organization, Cuban hired a female CEO, Cynthia Marshall, and together they announced an independent investigation into workplace harassment, both past and present. Meanwhile, the NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams announcing plans for a confidential hotline that would allow league and team employees to air their concerns privately.
Weisenhaupt wrote that she has contacted “a dozen current and former team employees” about the hotline, and “we have no idea what this is or how to find it.” She praised Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle for their willingness to address the allegations publicly. Nowitzki said he was “disgusted” by the Sports Illustrated story, which described the locker room as a safe haven from the corporate culture, and Carlisle lauded the anonymous women for speaking out against Ussery.
Weisenhaupt’s criticism of Cuban raises more concern for the embattled owner. Oregon’s Willamette Week recently uncovered allegations of sexual assault against Cuban at a Portland nightclub in 2011 that led to no criminal charges. Cuban staunchly denied the allegations both then and now, even after a former nightclub employee corroborated some of the alleged victim’s account, telling The Oregonian earlier this month that Cuban appeared “very drunk” and “really gropey” on the night in question.
Carlisle publicly defended Cuban both after the Sports Illustrated report and the Willamette Week account, calling the 2011 allegations a “baseless and journalistically unethical rehashing of a proven non-event.” He added, “Have you ever heard the term fake news? This is the most ridiculous form.”
According to the NBA, the league is closely monitoring the Mavericks’ independent investigation into workplace misconduct and reviewing the 2011 allegations against Cuban. News of both has escaped media scrutiny for weeks, and Weisenhaupt’s SI letter has returned them to the public consciousness.
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