As stunning stories of sexual misconduct and abuse of power rippled through politics and Hollywood during the past year — with the powerful #metoo movement gaining steam with each exposed transgression — I had more than a few conversations with people wondering how sports had managed to largely avoid the wave.
So many of these stories of awful and often illegal behavior, after all, were tied up in money and power — and sports has plenty of both.
It seemed like only a matter of when, not if, athletes and powerful executives around them would start to experience a comeuppance. There have been individual stories in recent months — including one very relevant to Minnesota involving Twins third baseman Miguel Sano — and a couple of months ago it reached the NFL with a searing report on the NFL’s Panthers.
And now we have another important Sports Illustrated piece about the toxic culture within the corporate offices of the Dallas Mavericks.
In an investigation, SI found a “corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior: alleged public fondling by the team president; outright domestic assault by a high-profile member of the Mavs.com staff; unsupportive or even intimidating responses from superiors who heard complaints of inappropriate behavior from their employees; even an employee who openly watched pornography at his desk.”
The worst of the bunch appears to be former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery, but the issues were widespread. Owner Mark Cuban, in full damage control mode, has fired two people in the wake of the report and appears sincere about wanting to fix the culture. The question persists, though: how does an owner like Cuban, who has a reputation for being “proudly hyperattentive,” as SI calls it, either not know about or not fix a problem that has persisted for so long?
By the way: If the type of behavior exhibited by Mavericks officials is “locker room talk,” as President Trump infamously said, the actual locker room isn’t the problem in Dallas. A former female Mavericks staffer is quoted in the piece saying, “I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue … they always knew how to treat people. Then I’d go to the office and it was this zoo. … My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.”