North Texas

Experts: Transparency Is Key for the Mavs Moving Forward

This week, Sports Illustrated published an investigative report detailing a hostile work environment in the Dallas Mavericks business office.

The report has already lead to firings in the organization and a promise of an independent investigation.

Experts tell NBC 5 that transparency will be important moving forward, if the Mavs want to make things right with employees, the alleged victims and fans.

"Sports Illustrated brought it to our attention. It should have been Mark Cuban bringing it to our attention," said Jeff Crilley, president and CEO of Real News PR, a Dallas-based public relations firm.

Crilley, who is not involved in the case, says it's important for Mark Cuban to answer questions and explain what he knew and when.

"At this point, I think he needs to hold a news conference he has to have the Mavericks team behind him and he has to have a strong statement," Crilley said.

The Mavericks say the organization hired outside investigators to lead the inquiry into the allegations spelled out in the Sports Illustrated article. The Mavericks hired Anne Milgrim, a former New Jersey attorney general and current NYU law professor, and Evan Krutoy, a former prosecutor.

A Frisco-based employment attorney who is not involved with the case told NBC 5 that she expects the investigators will interview employees, review emails and texts.

"Really diving into who knew what and what was being done to ferret out whether those issues were true, and just have somebody look from the outside in," said Brandi McKay.

She expects investigators will eventually make recommendations on how to prevent future abuse, including providing a way for employees to report harassment without fear of retaliation.

The Sports Illustrated report focused on two men and people in positions of power who either failed to intervene or actively discouraged it.

The report says former longtime team president and CEO Terdema Ussery sexually harassed women and that the former HR director, Buddy Pittman, was aware, but failed to stop it.

It also says the vice president of marketing at the time, Paul Monroe, threatened to fire one woman who complained about Ussery. She told Sports Illustrated Monroe told her to "just take" the abuse from Ussery.

Ussery, who left the team in 2015, still owns a home in Dallas. NBC 5 was unable to reach him for direct comment on Wednesday.

Pittman's wife answered the door at his home and told a reporter her husband is an "honorable man" and that she believes the truth would eventually come out. She took a message for her husband, but Pittman didn't call for comment.

Monroe now works for another North Texas organization. Voice messages left for Monroe at his office and on a family member's mobile phone were not returned Wednesday.

The Sports Illustrated report also points to a beat writer who kept his job in spite of a misdemeanor assault family violence conviction in Dallas early in his career with the Mavericks.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in court, Earl Sneed got into an argument about headphones with the woman he lived with in 2011. The woman told police the suspect grabbed the woman by her wrists, slammed her against a wall, sat on her and slapped her in the face and chest. She told officers he said, "I'm going to f-----g kick your a--. Today is gonna be the worst day of your life."

Police wrote the woman suffered a fractured wrist and bruises.

The woman told NBC 5 on Wednesday it was gut-wrenching to read the account again after seven years, but said she was glad people knew. She also told NBC 5 she emailed the Mavericks organization to warn them Sneed abused her and had a warrant out for his arrest in 2011.

Sports Illustrated reported Sneed later dated another woman in the organization who reportedly told HR about Sneed hitting her.

Sneed remained with the organization until Tuesday night after the Sports Illustrated article was published.

Tuesday night, Sneed tweeted to thank the Mavericks and MFFL (Mavs Fans For Life), "Not sure what God has in store for me next, but thank you to the Dallas Mavericks and every MFFL for seven amazing full-time years. It was the best time, but all good things must come to an end. Be blessed."

The Dallas Mavericks said the organization is hiring investigators to conduct an independent investigation.

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