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Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle irresponsibly calls Mark Cuban sexual-assault report ‘most insidious form’ of ‘fake news’

2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Dallas Mavericks v Chicago Bulls

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 08: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (L) and head coach Rick Carlisle watch the Mavericks take on the Chicago Bulls during a 2017 Summer League game at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 8, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dallas won 91-75. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Sports Illustrated detailed a predatory environment – including sexual harassment and domestic violence – in the Mavericks’ business office.

Outspoken and hands-on Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has rightfully come under the microscope for allowing it. He has already accepted responsibility for mishandling one situation. There’s still more information to gather about Cuban’s handling of incidents and just generally his outlook on these things.

To that effect, Willamette Week recently published a story detailing a not-previously reported accusation that Cuban sexually assaulted a woman in 2011. She said he reached down the back of her pants and inserted his fingers into her vagina while they posed for a photo in a Portland bar and stands by her claim. He denies it. Police investigated and didn’t press charges, citing (among other things) that no interviewed bar employees saw the alleged incident. However, a not-interviewed bar employee has since said he saw the woman jump after the photo and get angry with Cuban, whom the bar employee called “gropey” while posing with women throughout the night.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, via Edie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

“Very sad,” Carlisle said after practice. “And I view that situation as a baseless and journalistically unethical rehashing of a proven non-event. That’s what that is.

“Have you ever heard the term fake news? This is the most insidious form.”

Carlisle can say he believes Cuban. He can explain why he doesn’t believe the accuser.

But just calling it a “proven non-event” and “fake news” without further explanation is terribly irresponsible.

It is not a proven non-event. What was reported is not fake news.

Read the Willamette Week report. Read The Oregonian’s follow-up reporting. Neither outlet takes a side. Both responsibly lay out the facts – the accusation, the denial, the investigation, the finding. This is information worthy of public consideration.

Nobody reporting on the situation is saying Cuban did it.

Sexual assault is often difficult to prove. Our country – wisely – requires a high burden of proof to convict someone of a crime. Many sexual-assault cases come down to he-said, she-said, making it tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

That’s why the prosecution didn’t file charges.

To be fair, the prosecutor went a step further and wrote in his memo: “A fact finder could conclude the allegation of the complainant is unfounded.” But even that doesn’t make it a “proven non-event.” And perhaps the prosecutor wouldn’t have written that if the other bar employee had been interviewed at the time.

I get that Carlisle is in a tough spot. NBA coaches are the most frequent faces of a franchise, and he’s answering for the conduct of people he didn’t necessarily work with regularly and his boss. That’s not fair to Carlisle.

But if Carlisle is going to address these questions, it’s also unfair of him to answer this way.

It’s unfair to the accuser, who deserves to have her side of the story heard just like Cuban does. It’s unfair to sexual-assault victims, who are given yet another chilling effect for coming forward. And it’s unfair to the outlets reporting on the story, who have seemingly done so responsibly.