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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he’s to blame for keeping former employee

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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was solely responsible for the decision to keep former Mavericks.com reporter Earl K. Sneed on staff after two separate domestic violence incidents, telling ESPN on Wednesday that it was a “horrible mistake in hindsight.”

Sneed was fired this week in advance of Sports Illustrated publishing an investigative story about a culture of misogyny and predatory sexual behavior within the Mavericks organization. Cuban said he was not aware of “gruesome details” of a 2012 domestic dispute that resulted in Sneed being arrested at the Mavericks’ office until contacted by Sports Illustrated this week.

“I want to be clear, I’m not putting the blame on anybody else,” Cuban told ESPN. “It came down to my final decision that I made.”

In hindsight, Cuban said, “I would have fired him and still made him go to counseling” after learning details of the first domestic violence incident, expressing regret for not following up with police to discover those details.

Sports Illustrated, citing a Dallas police report, reported that Sneed’s then-girlfriend suffered a fractured right wrist and bruises on her arms and chest in the altercation. Sneed, who fled the scene before the police arrived, was arrested two months later and plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of family violence assault. The charges were dismissed after Sneed paid a $750 fine and completed supervised community service and an anger management program.

“It was bad, but we made a mistake about the whole thing and didn’t pursue what happened with the police after the fact,” Cuban told ESPN. “So we got it mostly from Earl’s perspective, and because we didn’t dig in with the details — and obviously it was a horrible mistake in hindsight — we kind of, I don’t want to say took his word for it, but we didn’t see all the gruesome details until just recently. I didn’t read the police report on that until just [Tuesday], and that was a huge mistake obviously.”

Sneed was also involved in a domestic dispute in 2014 with a co-worker who was his live-in girlfriend. As Sports Illustrated reported, the woman’s face was swollen when she went to work, and she reported the incident to her supervisor and human resources director Buddy Pittman, who was suspended this week. Cuban, who was rarely present at the Mavs’ business office, accepts fault for the decision to keep Sneed on staff after that incident as well.

“So when the second time came around … the way I looked at it was — and, again, in hindsight it was a mistake — but I didn’t want to just fire him, because then he would go out there and get hired again and do it somewhere else,” Cuban told ESPN. “That’s what I was truly afraid of and that was the discussion we had internally. It was a choice between just firing him and making sure that we had control of him. So I made the decision, it was my decision and again, in hindsight, I would probably do it differently. I made the decision that we would make him go to domestic abuse counseling as a requirement to continued employment, that he was not allowed to be alone without a chaperone in the presence of any other women in the organization or any other women in a business setting at all, and he was not allowed to date anybody [who works for the Mavericks]. From that point on – and the investigators are going to see if we missed anything else – he appeared to abide by all those rules, as far as I knew.

“So that was my decision. What I missed, and it was truly a f— up on my part, because I was not there [at the Mavericks’ office], I looked at everything anecdotally. My real f— up was I didn’t recognize the impact it would have on all the other employees. I looked at this as a one-off situation where, OK, if I don’t do anything, this person could go out there and do damage on another women another time. Or do I say, can we get him counseling to try to prevent that from happening again? I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. What I missed, again, is I didn’t realize the impact that it would have on the workplace and on the women that worked here and how it sent a message to them that, if it was OK for Earl to do that, who knows what else is OK in the workplace? I missed that completely. I missed it completely.”

Sneed released a statement to The Dallas Morning News and ESPN on Tuesday night addressing the incidents and expressing gratitude to Cuban and Pittman.

“While both instances described in the report are damning and language used is not accurate, the two relationships described in the report are not something I am proud to have been a part of,” Sneed wrote in a statement. “I underwent much counseling after both situations, under the direction of Buddy Pittman, and I feel like I grew from that counseling. I also signed a contract stating that I would not have one-on-one contact or fraternize with female employees after the inaccurately described incident with my female co-worker, who was a live-in girlfriend. I abided by the details of that contract for four years, and received counseling during that period to avoid future instances.

“I thank Buddy Pittman for helping me to grow during that time, and I thank Mark Cuban for his willingness to aid facilitate that growth.”

Cuban declined to comment on allegations of serial sexual harassment against former Mavericks president and CEO Terdema Ussery until the conclusion of an investigation that will be conducted by Krutoy Law, a New York-based firm led by Evan Krutoy, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office who had a stint as the acting bureau chief of the city’s sex crimes unit.

A statement released by the Mavericks on Tuesday night stated that the team has “only learned of the scope of these complaints” against Ussery in recent days.

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