NEW YORK (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended his decision not to suspend Mark Cuban on Friday, noting that the Mavericks owner was never directly implicated in the misconduct toward women within his organization.
Silver believed a suspension for Cuban, therefore, would have set a dangerous precedent.
“If owners, shareholders, even a CEO — and Mark was not the CEO in this case — are going to be held accountable for the misconduct of others within their organizations, what’s the standard that I’m going to be setting going forward and how many suspensions therefore am I talking about?” Silver said.
Silver acknowledged that Cuban should have been more aware of what was going on and was not absolved of responsibility, but he wasn’t accused of anything by any of the 215 current and former Mavericks employees who were interviewed for a report into the team’s workplace that was released this week .
Silver also cited Cuban’s response to the original “Sports Illustrated” report detailing years of examples of a hostile workplace for women on the business side of the team, and the organization’s cooperation with investigators afterward in choosing not to hand down further punishment.
“And I can only say there, I’ve been with this organization for 26 years, I was a practicing attorney before then,” Silver said, “and I cannot think of any situation where somebody was more transparent and more forthcoming, more accepting of responsibility than Mark was in this situation.”
Cuban agreed to contribute $10 million to help further the cause of women in sports and raise awareness about domestic violence. Silver could have only fined him $2.5 million under NBA rules.
Even if he could have issued a higher financial penalty, Silver said he wasn’t sure what number could possibly compensate employees for the misconduct they faced. But he said the league has already heard from organizations saying what even a fraction of the $10 million can accomplish to help their causes.
Investigators found no evidence that Cuban knew of the explosive allegations involving former team president Terdema Ussery. The report faulted Cuban for not firing two employees when there were clear signs he should have, but Silver couldn’t penalize Cuban for what they did.
“In the past, recognizing a lot has changed in the world, there are no examples where owners have been suspended for someone else’s misconduct,” Silver said.
Silver said one of the problems within the Mavericks was the lack of clear roles, with employees perhaps unsure of even who to report misconduct to with some of it being done by the CEO himself.
Silver said that has led to discussion among the teams about the need for dialogue, hotlines, surveys and other ways to make sure there are checks on organizational leadership.
“And so lesson learned here for organizations big and small, there has to be almost militaristic clarity on reporting lines,” Silver said. “Who’s in charge, who makes a decision, and that has to apply to the owners.”
He sent a memo to teams urging them to hire more women in leadership roles and follow other steps to strengthen their workplaces, and he said discussion among owners this week during their preseason Board of Governors meetings was a “sobering moment.”
“I don’t know how else to say it for everyone there and I think there’s a lot of introspection now with all our teams and as people are looking through those lists saying, can something like this happen in my workplace? Silver said.
“Whether it’s the NBA or any other businesses they operate, what are the best practices preventing those things going forward? I can only say, we will redouble our efforts at the league and working with our teams to try to ensure that the kind of events that happen at the Mavericks never happen again.”
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