Last week, Sports Illustrated blew the lid off the way the team reportedly mishandled egregious sexual harassment and assault allegations.
That left many Dallas Mavericks fans looking for answers.
The Star-Telegram spoke to one person who could truly give us those answers: one of the reporters from the story, investigative journalist Jessica Luther.
Due to her extensive background in covering the relationship between sexual misconduct and sports, Luther teamed up with SI Executive Editor Jon Wertheim to uncover "the corrosive workplace culture of the Dallas Mavericks."
Why did you and Jon Wertheim decide to tackle the Mavs, and why now?
Because in mid-December, Jon wrote a piece about Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers, and it was really big news, and following that people start contacting you, when you write something like that. And as Jon has explained it to me, they got multiple tips that seemed, on their face, like they could be credible and a story worth pursuing.
He contacted me in December or early-January because they wanted someone on the ground in Texas, who had experience with this particular topic, and that’s how I got involved.
But, why now? Because that particular group of women decided that they wanted to say something at this point of time, and they chose Jon because of the reporting that he had done on Jerry Richardson.
What’s your opinion on Mark Cuban and the route that he’s taken? He says he’s accepting the responsibility, and insists he didn't know anything?
Cuban’s interesting, in part because he built his own brand as a micro-manager.
We contacted the Mavs, and within an hour, Cuban called Jon directly. Based on the transcripts, and everything that Jon’s told me, it doesn’t appear that he was working with a crisis management team, or even PR. He didn’t have a set line that he needed to give over and over again.
Jon said that he seemed genuinely upset by the whole thing.
And then, of course, all of the stuff when he told ESPN that it’s all his fault.
Cuban’s a hard one, it’s like talking about Briles at Baylor. It’s always difficult to say who knew what when? And how much did they know? And how much was active covering up? And how much was just not listening?
A lot of Mavs fans are arguing that this is a problem everywhere, and say it's only their team that's being punished. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, the first school I ever wrote about was Florida State, and I wrote about them because they were mine. It was the only school I applied to, I was going to go to Florida State to watch Florida State play football in college. So, it meant a lot to me, when they were the ones in the news [when Jameis Winston was accused of rape] and they weren’t living up to what I wanted from a team that I loved so much. And, you know, I’ve had my own reckoning as a sports fan, over the past four-and-a-half years over this.
It’s really easy for people to do nothing and I think that’s a really good excuse for why you shouldn’t do anything.
Instead, why do you love the Mavs? What is it about this organization that you’ve invested all this time in, and why invest it in something that you can’t be totally proud of? Like don’t you want them to be better? Why shouldn’t they be the best at this particular thing, if they’re also going to be the best at what they do on the court?
Do you get death threats from people that are upset that you exposed their team for something?
It’s been interesting, the Mavs stuff has not been much of anything.
But, I will admit to this, I am always nervous before a story publishes, especially if I don’t understand what the fandom is like.
Really the only stuff that has occurred since then has made me feel like we got it all right.
When we first did the Baylor stuff, there was a very small, but dedicated group that was mad about it. But, I will give Baylor fans a ton of credit on this front, overall they seemed to just be very upset that this happened, and they wanted it to better. So, most of what we got from Baylor was okay.
When you hear the phrase “stick to sports,” what does that mean to you and do you think it's possible?
I don’t. I don’t think it’s possible at all.
It must just be really nice, to be able to watch sports and not think about all of the politics behind it.
I understand that sports are an escape for a lot of people, and that’s how they see them. They don’t want to think the heavy thoughts while they’re watching sports, they don’t want to be bothered with the underbelly of the thing that they love. They just want to know what’s happening on the court and that’s it. And that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that, I want that. I just don’t think that’s possible unless you divorce yourself from the world.
These are powerful organizations that are often lobbying legislators for tax breaks and labor laws, and even if you don’t want to deal with the fact that sports in general are a lot of men and the people in power are a lot of white men, there’s still other stuff going on all of the time.
Do you welcome survivors to reach out to you?
I absolutely want people to feel like they can reach out to me, if they want to.
In the simplest terms, if you’re a college student and you’re assaulted, what should you do?
If something happens to you, whether that’s gendered harassment or violence, and you are unsure of where to go, my biggest piece of advice is to find the local advocacy group. Call the rape crisis center in your community, not the one on campus, call the one in the community. Or find a domestic violence shelter.
DFW Advocacy Groups:
RAINN, Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, The Turning Point, The Victim Intervention Program (VIP)/Rape Crisis Center at Parkland, The Women’s Center Rape Crisis and Victim Services, Brighter Tomorrows, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault
Reporting protocols for administrators at DFW schools: