Melissa Weishaupt believes it's time she becomes more than an anonymous voice.
A month after Weishaupt's anonymous statements to Sports Illustrated were featured prominently in a story detailing a Dallas Mavericks corporate culture prevalent with predatory sexual behavior and misogyny, she attached her name and face to her comments Tuesday.
Weishaupt wrote a first-person essay published by Sports Illustrated's website Tuesday about her experiences working in marketing and game operations for the Mavericks from 2010 to 2014 and why she believes owner Mark Cuban still doesn't recognize the problem. In an extensive interview with The Dallas Morning News, Weishaupt opened up about how she became a target of former Mavericks president/CEO Terdema Ussery.
Weishaupt was among more than a dozen former and current Mavericks employees that SI interviewed during its one-month investigation. She said she's been influenced by the #MeToo movement and hopes other women allegedly sexually harassed by Ussery during his Mavericks tenure will now feel more empowered to come forward. She also believes Cuban and the Mavericks need to do more.
Weishaupt's decision to attach her name to her allegations was in part sparked by Ussery's denial to Sports Illustrated. When Ussery was told that multiple women alleged he sexually harassed them, he told the magazine, "I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me."
"When Terdema said that about staying anonymous, he made it seem like we're being cowards with it, and we're definitely not," Weishaupt said. "There are reasons why people stay anonymous, but I want more people to come forward and I want people to feel they can say something and feel comfortable saying something. They shouldn't feel like they should have to hide. There is power in speaking out. For so long we've had to be quiet with this and it is scary and it's uncomfortable, but you should come forward."
Ussery hasn't returned repeated calls from The News.
Cuban, who declined to comment, has denied having any knowledge of sexual harassment allegations against Ussery. When contacted by Sports Illustrated, Cuban said "this is all new to me" but added it needed to be fixed.
Cuban immediately suspended human resources director Buddy Pittman. The day after Sports Illustrated's story was published, Cuban contacted Cynthia Marshall, a 58-year-old, high-profile human resources executive during a 36-year career at AT&T, and quickly hired her as the Mavericks' interim CEO with the task of cleaning up the non-basketball operations side of the organization. Cuban also mandated sensitivity training for all employees, and the Mavericks have initiated an NBA-sponsored hotline for any employee to report issues. That hotline began operation Sunday.
Weishaupt said she hasn't been contacted by Marshall to detail her experiences. Someone else with the Mavericks reached out to her, she said, after the Sports Illustrated story to tell her the organization would pay for her to go to counseling.
"I don't need your counseling now," Weishaupt responded. "My thing is the workplace needs to change. (Cuban) doesn't get that he needs to take care of all of your workers.
"I went years ago and I received my counseling and came to peace with this. I'm more focused on equality for all workers and not just women and I think that gets lost in the whole story. I feel like there are men who work there who don't get treated well. It's such a hostile and toxic workplace. Yes, women were sexually harassed in this workplace, and when you work in such a toxic workplace everyone is not treated fair. You work in fear. It was unfair for everybody."
Marshall, in Philadelphia for a speaking engagement, said by phone Tuesday that she is welcoming reports like the one from Weishaupt, but she wants to reassure fans and critics that any notion that the franchise is standing still is inaccurate.
The Mavericks recently made two high-profile hires but purposely did not publicized them.
Tarsha LaCour, a Houston native and product of Texas A&M, has been hired as vice president of human resources. Cyndee Wales, a Californian who has been in Texas for 10 years, is the new chief ethics and compliance officer.
"I don't want people thinking we don't believe these women who come forward," Marshall said. "We need to know these things and it will all fold into the plan. It's sad that people went through this.
"And if people have something to say, tell it to us or the investigators or the newspaper. We absolutely are going to come out of this a better organization. But it will take some time."
The Mavericks' investigation, led by Evan Krutoy and Anne Milgram, is expected to last until early summer.
Weishaupt still works in Dallas and spent 15 years in radio at previous stops.
"I've worked in these environments before," she said, "but this was a whole other level."
Shocked by Ussery
Ussery spent 18 years with the Mavericks before leaving in 2015. He's credited with arranging the financing for American Airlines Center and bringing the All-Star Game to AT&T Stadium in 2010.
In 1998, the Mavericks conducted an internal investigation about Ussery after several female employees lodged complaints about inappropriate workplace behavior. The results of the probe weren't released, but soon after the completion of the investigation the Mavericks hired Pittman as their new HR boss. Cuban purchased the team 17 months later.
Weishaupt said she entered her Mavericks job in 2010 with her eyes wide open, knowing Ussery had previously been investigated by the organization.
But even with that knowledge, she wasn't prepared for what she heard from him.
Before a home game during the 2010-11 season, Weishaupt was eating dinner in the media dining room when, as she recalled, Ussery asked if he could join her.
Ussery claimed he knew how Weishaupt was going to spend her weekend.
"You're going to get gang-banged," he told her.
She was caught off-guard and said that she was actually going to the movies.
Ussery, however, kept pushing.
"You're definitely getting gang-banged."
Weishaupt said that Ussery often repeated that same comment to her at other times in other settings.
"He would always bring up motorcycle riders, like I was getting gang-banged by motorcycle riders," Weishaupt said. "It was so often, I can't even tell you how many times he said it."
Other times, Weishaupt said, Ussery would make inappropriate comments about her body.
Weishaupt brought her concerns to Pittman, she said, but he shrugged it off, telling her that she should just try to avoid Ussery and keep her distance.
That was impossible. She worked near Ussery and had almost daily contact with him.
"I said one time in the office to him, 'When you say things like that to women, those are generally not the women who get promoted,' " Weishaupt recalled. "I said, 'I would really appreciate it if you didn't talk to me that way,' and he just slapped me on the back and walked away and I knew I was totally screwed."
One day, toward the end of her tenure, Weishaupt said she finally reached her breaking point with her direct boss, Paul Monroe, then the Mavericks' vice president of marketing, during an incident in the parking lot of the team's business offices.
Weishaupt had previously told Monroe about the toxic culture with the Mavericks that was unfriendly to women, specifically detailing some of Ussery's behavior.
"We were in a car together, and he absolutely lost his mind with me," Weishaupt said. "He had locked me in the car for an hour. I froze because he just completely lost his mind, screaming and yelling at me."
Monroe couldn't be reached by The News for comment. He told Sports Illustrated that he didn't recall that "conversation nor the context" with Weishaupt.
"During my tenure with the Mavs no employee ever reported to me that they were a victim of inappropriate behavior," Monroe told SI.
During the intense hour, Weishaupt said two other Mavericks employees saw the two in the car together. One, Weishaupt recalled, was executive vice president George Killebrew.
"They walked by and pointed and laughed, and my heart sank," Weishaupt said. "I knew nobody was ever going to help, so I knew I had to get out of there."
Killebrew was told about Weishaupt's allegation Tuesday.
"I don't recall that occurrence at all," he said. "And if I ever saw any Mavs employee in duress I would try to help them."
Weishaupt said Monroe was yelling that she was a "horrible employee" and he was going to "get me fired."
"I describe it like a domestic violence situation because I felt trapped," she said. "He was so violent and screaming and I told everybody who would listen to me and nobody seemed to care, and when those two didn't stop to help and pointed and laughed, I thought, 'What is wrong with these people?' I knew it wasn't a safe place to work. I left at the end of the season."
Weishaupt said she didn't report the incident with Monroe to Pittman in HR because she already knew nothing positive would come from it.
'I think Mark knew'
Weishaupt said she believes Cuban knew about the toxic work environment and Ussery's long history of sexual harassment. She said she never directly told Cuban about their issues or knew of anyone who had a direct conversation with him.
"I think Mark knew about it, just because of how people talked in the office," Weishaupt said. "It was a small office. I think Mark knew and I think Mark just turned a blind eye to it. He was not in the office a lot, but our department dealt with him a lot. I know he was very involved with day-to-day decisions. It's hard for me to believe he just dealt with basketball operations. That's just an untrue statement. And if people want to believe that (because) they love Mark Cuban, that's good on you, but people at the Mavs know that's not true. That's not what was happening."
Allegra East, who has known Cuban since his days at Indiana University and worked as the director of the Mavericks Foundation and community services from 2000 to 2003, said she has a hard time believing Cuban knew anything about inappropriate behavior. She said she never witnessed any sexual harassment.
"He's a good man. He has a good heart and he is respectful to women," East said of Cuban. "I never saw him as a perpetrator and I do believe 100 percent he would never tolerate that in the workplace. I don't think Mark is stupid. I don't think he's blind. He expects his management team to do its job. He was failed in a really bad way by Pittman. I believe (Cuban) being horrified.
"Do I believe Ussery is guilty of sexual harassment? 100 percent, yes. I don't believe a leopard changes his spots."
Weishaupt said looking back on her experiences, she's not sure how she could have handled it differently.
"Women are not wallflowers and stiff," she said. "We love jokes and love to joke around and have fun, but if you're telling someone over and over and over and they tell you, 'That doesn't make me feel comfortable,' you don't have to have your ego crushed and double-down on the situation. Just move on from it. It's not really that hard to figure out."
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