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Sunday, February 25, 2018

It is Time for Mark Cuban to Sell the Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has often bragged about how he has hands on, intimate knowledge of every aspect of his team--and that is why he needs to sell the team now, before he further damages not only his team but the NBA as a whole. Any business owner who claims to be obsessed with details and then pleads ignorance of a rampant culture of sexual misconduct in that business is either a liar or an incompetent fool.

Either way, Cuban has got to go.

Sports Illustrated's months-long investigation into Cuban's team revealed, among other things, that Cuban's hand-picked right hand man for nearly two decades--Terdema Ussery--was a sexual predator. Cuban either tolerated Ussery's misconduct or was oblivious to it, which stands in marked contrast to how quickly Under Armour dumped Ussery after realizing the depths of Ussery's depravity not long after hiring him away from the Mavericks in 2015 (officially, Ussery resigned from his Under Armour position). The SI report also noted that the Mavericks' official team writer, Earl K. Sneed, kept his job with the team despite being convicted of domestic violence and then subsequently assaulting a female co-worker who he was dating; Sneed's violent criminal record not only demonstrated that he was a potential threat to his co-workers but it also interfered with his ability to do his job since it resulted in him not being able to travel to Canada to cover Dallas' games in Toronto. Cuban did not fire Sneed until the SI report was published; instead, Sneed had a bizarre clause in his contract that restricted his ability to be alone with female co-workers, special dispensation that sends an awful message of tolerance for abhorrent conduct. Basically, Cuban's workplace sexual harassment policy was that you could work for him even after twice violently assaulting females.

Cuban's ignorance or toleration of sexual abuse and domestic violence is more than sufficient cause for the NBA to pressure him to sell the team but there is also the matter of Cuban publicly admitting that NBA games--at least the ones involving his team--are not in fact true competition but are fixed; specifically, Cuban stated that he has instructed his players that it is in the franchise's best interest to intentionally lose as many games as possible this year in order to try to obtain a better draft pick. The NBA fined Cuban $600,000 for those comments but that sanction is not nearly sufficient. NBA ticket sales and television revenue are based on the sport being authentically competitive; if the outcomes of games are scripted--if one team is intentionally losing--then this has significant implications, particularly for a league that seems bound and determined to arrange for widespread legalized betting on its contests. If I were a Dallas ticket holder and/or someone who bet on Dallas to win games I would consider joining up with other similarly situated plaintiffs to file a class action lawsuit against Cuban and the team for committing fraud, because those tickets and gambling slips were purchased based on the reasonable belief that the team is actually trying to win.

Cuban has long boasted about his supposedly avant garde use of so-called "advanced basketball statistics." Cuban claims that he did not know about the sexual misconduct plaguing the team's business operations because he was so busy crunching numbers to help the team win (or, perhaps, help the team "strategically" lose). The Mavericks won one title during the Cuban era (2011) but since that brief shining moment there has been precious little return on Cuban's investment in "advanced basketball statistics": four first round losses, plus three non-playoff seasons (including this year, as it is safe to assume that the 18-41 Dallas Tankers are not going to participate in postseason play). Cuban foolishly paid Harrison Barnes like a franchise player, despite the fact that anyone who understands the sport (as opposed to someone who just looks at numbers on a spreadsheet) knows that Barnes does not have the skill set or mentality of an elite player.

Cuban does not know how to build a team but instead of admitting his ignorance he thinks that it is clever to intentionally lose, despite research that shows that tanking does not work.

Cuban's Dallas Mavericks are committing fraud on the court, while fostering a climate of sexual misconduct in the front office. It is well past time for the NBA to cut ties with Cuban.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:26 AM

4 comments

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4 Comments:

At Sunday, February 25, 2018 10:19:00 AM, Blogger beep said...

I'm far from supporting Cuban and his actions, quite the opposite, but:
"Sneed had a bizarre clause in his contract that restricted his ability to be alone with female co-workers"
that only shows they knew about the problem and thought it worth to hire the guy under some restrictions to prevent any further misconduct, which is reasonable take imho. So I don't understand the hysterical (or so it seems) tone of your article on the matter.

 
At Sunday, February 25, 2018 1:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Beep:

1) Cuban cannot honestly claim that he didn't know about the problems when Sneed had this clause in his contract.

2) What Sneed did is just cause for dismissal, particularly since his criminal conviction impaired his ability to do his job (he could not go to Canada to cover games).

3) As another writer mentioned, that clause in Sneed's contract sent a powerful and frightening message to female Maverick employees that a co-worker could violently assault them and still not be fired.

For the above reasons, I do not think that my tone is "hysterical."

 
At Monday, February 26, 2018 9:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a bit of a tangent, but Mark Cuban's numerological obsession with "advanced statistics" is a big reason why Dirk Nowitzki is somewhat underrated. As you pointed out at some point a while ago, if the Mavs had kept their championship team intact, Nowitzki would most likely have had a pretty decent shot at a repeat. But Cuban deliberately dismantled that championship team because he believed more in number-crunching stats than in the intangibles of a championship-winning team. Remember when Rudy Tomjanovic said of his Rockets: "Never underestimate the heart of a champion"? That's exactly what Cuban did, but he underestimated the heart of his own team, meanwhile overestimating "advanced stats".

To speak directly to your point, even if Cuban's teams had won the last seven championships straight, Cuban should still be forced out. Regardless of the Mavs' success rate, what Cuban did to condone, if not aid and abet, systematic harassment of women in his workplace is unconscionable. It does seem like you're conflating his numerological mismanagement, which does make him a bad owner not fit to own a team, and his harassment-friendly mismanagement, which makes him a horrible owner even if his team were the best in the league. I guess I'm saying that the fraud that Cuban is now perpetrating on the league and on basketball fans is immoral in a different way than is the sexual violence that he allowed against his own female employees. You may be trivializing sexual harassment by conflating it with tanking and statistical obsession.

 
At Monday, February 26, 2018 10:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I completely agree with what you wrote in the first paragraph.

Regarding the second paragraph, when I wrote this article I realized that I was taking a risk by discussing the serious crime of domestic violence/the serious crime of sexual harassment in the same space as the issues of "advanced basketball statistics" and tanking. The former is certainly a much greater crime/moral issue than the latter. My point is that there are now multiple reasons that Cuban is not fit to be an NBA owner:

1) First and foremost, he has tolerated if not condoned a toxic work environment.
2) Second, he has admitted that he has instructed his team to lose, thus perpetrating fraud on his paying customers.

Being a "bad" owner in the sense of trusting "advanced basketball statistics" too much is not necessarily a reason to force him to sell the team, though it is a valid reason for Dallas fans to stop buying tickets to Mavericks' games; my point in that regard was that Cuban claims to be so detail oriented/obsessed and yet he also claims to be completely unaware of long-term, pervasive sexual harassment in his organization. His version of events is thus hard to believe.

 

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