It has been over six months since Sports Illustrated released their bombshell report detailing how sexual harassment was rife within the Dallas Mavericks office culture, and nearly one month since the NBA released a 43-page report by an outside investigator which showed the rot within the Dallas organization. ESPN reported that Mark Cuban agreed to contribute $10 million to women’s charities, but commissioner Adam Silver said that he would not suspend Cuban as he was not directly implicated in the conduct.
But less than a month later, it appears that the report and efforts to change Dallas’s culture may be a farce. The Dallas Morning News revealed last week that “team photographer Danny Bollinger has a history of propositioning female co-workers and making lewd comments in the workplace for more than a decade.” Bollinger took inappropriate photos of both Mavericks dancers and courtside fans, and women told each other never to be alone with him.
The Mavericks have promptly fired Bollinger since the recent report came out, and a culture of more than 20 years of rampant sexual harassment cannot be fixed overnight. But in certain ways, the Bollinger news and the questions it reveals shows that the NBA and Silver must do more than an investigation and a relatively small fine.
The Bollinger-Cuban relation
There are two important questions which reporters and fans should want the answer in light of the Bollinger news. The first concerns Mark Cuban. The second concerns the recently released report.
As noted above, Cuban managed to escape a more significant punishment by arguing that he focused on the basketball aspects of the Mavericks organization while others like the then-CEO and head of HR enabled a toxic work culture. He did acknowledge that as the owner of the Mavericks, the buck stopped with him and accepted a degree of punishment. But the fundamental point is that Cuban claims he had no real idea what was going on.
Is that still true for Bollinger? As the Mavericks teams photographer for 18 years, Bollinger was intimately involved with the basketball side of the Mavericks operation and was close personal friends with Cuban. Sports Illustrated noted in 2002 that Cuban was introduced to his future wife by Bollinger. It is perfectly possible that Bollinger kept his antics carefully hidden from Cuban as we have seen other sexual harassers do, but the Dallas Morning News hardly portrays him as someone who spent a great deal of effort to keep his antics secret. Was Cuban really unaware?
Furthermore, the released report does not discuss Bollinger at all even though he had been doing these things for more than a decade, which came as a great surprise to the women who had reported these things. In fact, the report only featured employees whose names had been previously published. Adam Silver claims that Bollinger was not publicly named as the accusations were named anonymously. But let us be serious. For all intents and purposes, this report makes it look like the Mavericks and the NBA issued the report, fostered the blame on those already accused, and tried to pretend that the rest of the Mavericks organization was okay. But it looks like the entire barrel was rotten instead of just a few apples.
So what is to be done? In the first major controversy of Adam Silver’s reign, he forced Donald Sterling to sell his team for making highly inappropriate remarks, which was no doubt further exacerbated by Sterling’s long, racist history. Cuban so far has been able to avoid direct responsibility in ways that Sterling did not. But the Bollinger news makes it appear more likely that Cuban in fact knew and did nothing, though we have no way to know for certain as of this time. If it does turn to be the case, will Silver have the courage to stand for what is right against a much more popular owner than Sterling?