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One year later: How the Mavs' culture transformed from 'corrosive' to inclusive

Brad Townsend

09/20/2019

As anniversaries go, this isn't one the Mavericks organization is likely to celebrate.

Acknowledge? Yes. Quietly commemorate it as a time for reflection? Absolutely.

No one can change the reality that last Sept. 19 was one of the most painful days in Mavericks history. But one year later, by all indications, the organization is mended if not healed.

"We've literally turned the corner," Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall says.

A year ago Thursday, ESPN viewers watched Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's at-times tearful response to a seven-month investigation that confirmed "numerous instances" of sexual harassment and other improper conduct within his franchise's business operations.

None of the transgressions, which spanned two decades, were basketball-related, but the entire organization was stigmatized as the #MeToo movement's NBA poster boy.

Fortunately for Cuban and the franchise, he hired former AT&T senior vice president and chief diversity officer Marshall in late February 2018, days after Sports Illustrated exposed the Mavericks' "corrosive workplace culture."

Marshall soon devised and began implementing her 100-day plan to cleanse and transform the Mavericks' business operations, months before the independent investigation concluded.

"She has completely revolutionized the culture of the business side of the Mavs," Cuban says. "Her imprint is in every part of the business. We have improved in every facet, and she deserves the credit."

Establishing a plan

Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall addresses the room next to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban 
during a press conference at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Monday, February 26, 2018. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall addresses the room next to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during a press conference at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Monday, February 26, 2018. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)(Vernon Bryant / Staff Photographer)

In what areas, specifically, have the Mavericks' business operations improved? Let's begin with Marshall's vow during her first Mavericks news conference on Feb. 26, 2018:

Marshall said she and Cuban were "laying out a vision that says by 2019 the Dallas Mavericks will be the standard. We will be leading the way in inclusion and diversity."

When Marshall arrived 19 months ago, none of the Mavericks' business-side executives were women or people of color.

Today, 50 percent of the executives are women and 43 percent are people of color.

Pre-Marshall, 74 percent of the Mavericks' business-side employees were white and 68 percent were men.

Today, 40 percent of the overall workforce are people of color, and 43 percent are women. That represents respective increases of 54 percent and 34 percent.

Meanwhile, overall staff size has increased by 25 percent as Marshall added a strategy and analytics team, established a fully functioning human resources team, brought the merchandise team in-house and increased resources in ticket sales, marketing and sponsorships.

"We looked at every aspect of our business and said, 'OK, where are the gaps?'" Marshall says. "To really serve our fans, serve the community, serve the players and coaches, we needed to beef up."

Longtime Mavericks employees, though, tell The News that the metamorphosis can't merely be measured by staff size and diversity percentages.

They say it's also about words and actions, and workplace environment. Marshall hired a general counsel and associate general counsel and created an ethics and compliance office.

By all accounts, the employee complaint process that was instituted after Marshall's arrival, including and "EthicsLine" that is staffed 24 hours per day by third-party screeners, is functioning well. Employee ethics, compliance and unconscious bias training is ongoing.

It certainly didn't go unnoticed, or unappreciated, among staffers when the Mavericks became sponsors in Dallas' annual Pride Parade, and when the franchise held Pride Night last March 26, when the Mavericks hosted Sacramento.

The Mavericks organization also helped found the Dallas Chapter of Women In Sports and Events (WISE), which held its launch party Wednesday.

"We had to ask ourselves, 'What are we about?'" Marshall says.

Read More on dallasnews.com

 

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