DALLAS – Mark Cuban let his new CEO do most of the talking Monday when former AT&T executive Cynthia Marshall was introduced to the public a week after a report that painted a picture of a hostile workplace for women in the Dallas Mavericks owner’s franchise.
In his first meeting with reporters almost a week after the Sports Illustrated story that also included allegations of sexual misconduct against former team president Terdema Ussery, Cuban wouldn’t address how much he knew about those complaints.
Ussery worked for Cuban for 15 years and was investigated by the Mavericks over similar allegations in 1998, two years before Cuban bought the team. Cuban has hired two former prosecutors to investigate the complaints and the franchise’s workplace practices.
“All of that will come out from the investigators’ report, so I’ll defer to that,” Cuban said in one of several brief responses as he sat next to Marshall, who has been given authority by her owner to decide how the club will respond to the independent report.
Marshall was senior vice president of human resources at AT&T when she took on the additional role of chief diversity officer in 2015.
Sports Illustrated reported Ussery made sexually suggestive remarks to several women. He spent 18 years with the team before going to the sports apparel company Under Armour in 2015, a job he left after less than six months.
The SI report said team website reporter Earl Sneed was twice involved in domestic assault cases while working for the Mavericks, including a guilty plea in a case that was dismissed when he met the conditions of the agreement.
Sneed and former human resources director Buddy Pittman were fired in the wake of the report, which included allegations that executives weren’t responsive when women complained of workplace violations.
Marshall said all current employees would be interviewed, and that she intended to meet with former employees as well.
“The process failed somewhere,” said Marshall, who retired from AT&T last May with more than 30 years of telecommunications experience going back to 1981 with Pacific Bell. “I don’t know why it failed. And so that’s what we have to dig out. So I will be meeting one-on-one every single employee of the organization. I’m calling it my own ‘March Madness.’ ”
Marshall’s one-liner drew laughs during what was a mostly upbeat news conference for what seems to be a welcomed addition. Her arrival was praised by Rick Carlisle as “dynamic” and “charismatic” after Marshall met with him and was introduced to the players by their coach.
The smiles stopped – and the uncertainly ahead surfaced – each time the questions switched to Cuban.
The normally outspoken star of the TV show “Shark Tank” softly said “not at this point” when asked if he could explain to Dallas fans how such a hands-on billionaire could be unaware of such explosive allegations on the business side of his operation.
The SI report came a day before the NBA fined Cuban $600,000 for acknowledging that losing games intentionally was the best approach for a team that will miss the playoffs with a losing record for the second straight year.
“Today’s not the time for me to talk about anything,” Cuban said near the end of the news conference.
Cuban reached out to Marshall, who founded her own consulting firm, after the SI report last week. They met the same day he called, and she was in place by Friday.
“Leadership at AT&T suggested her name to us and basically conveyed to us that their most devastating day at AT&T was when Cynt left,” Cuban said, using Marshall’s preferred version of her first name. “That and confirmation from untold number of people was all the confirmation I needed to hear.”
Marshall said she found Cuban to be transparent and honest in their first meeting, which lasted nearly an hour. But she still told him she would have to think about it, based on what she had read in the SI report.
“I’m a brand,” she said. “I work very hard for the brand that I have. And I can’t attach my brand to something I can’t trust. By the time I left his office, spent a day with the folks, I said I absolutely will attach my brand to this organization.”
The team plans to establish a hotline for counseling and support services for past and current employees, and Cuban has said he is mandating sensitivity training for all employees, himself included. The NBA announced plans for a similar hotline a few days after the SI report.
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