- After more than a dozen current and ex-employees shed light on the Mavs' hostile work environment, a former target opens up about her sexual harassment experience and why Mark Cuban still doesn't recognize the problem.
Last month former Mavericks president Terdema Ussery was presented with allegations that he had sexually harassed multiple women while he held that position.
In response he said this: “I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me.”
Let’s tackle that issue of anonymity. I worked in marketing and game operations for the Mavs from 2010 through ’14. I was one of the women Terdema harassed and who spoke to Sports Illustrated for the story. My name is Melissa Weishaupt.
As is the case for so many females, the #MeToo movement has had relevance and resonance for, well, me too. I nodded as I read stories about powerful men using their positions of authority to behave inappropriately and then relying on their allies to avoid consequences. I could relate to women who just wanted to do their jobs but who instead had to devote so much time and energy to dealing with predators. 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.
I also understood why so many women decided not to affix their names to these stories. The critics often ask, “Why do they stay anonymous?” Well. Some fear for their safety. Others don’t want to be ostracized. Some don’t want to deal with trolls on social media, or they don’t want their new coworkers to look at them differently. Personally, I was less concerned for myself than for my family and friends getting any backlash. But now I am reconsidering.
I’m using my name because I’m still not sure the Mavericks get it. 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% 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!
Now you want to help? We are not fragile flowers. We don’t long for counseling. (As for that hotline: I’ve spoken with a dozen current and former team employees; we have no idea what this is or how to find it.) We want equitable pay. We need to be treated with respect. When deserved, we ought to be given the same promotions as our male counterparts.
I’m using my name because I’m encouraged by people like Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle. After SI’s story broke, they didn’t duck questions; they didn’t blame the victims. Accused of nothing, they still recognized they represented their organization. They showed support for those of us who came forward. I’m using my name because I want people to understand there are economics tied to this #MeToo movement. We were told at staff meetings: Texas is a right-to-work state. You have the right to work here; we have the right to fire you. If you work in fear that you could be fired at any time, you’ll be reluctant to complain.
I’m using my name because I know that the human resources department is not always a safe haven. At the Mavericks—and I’m sure elsewhere—HR was there to protect management, not employees. Many workers, especially middle-class and minority workers do not have a voice or an advocate at their jobs. They should chronicle what happens around them, find a support group outside of work. But they should be cautious in dealing with HR.
Yes, I was harassed while I worked for the Mavericks. But I am using my name now because I will never say that I am a victim. I am tougher. I am wiser. I am my own advocate.
I am Melissa Weishaupt.