Did Mark Cuban Hire a Black Woman CEO as a Positive Publicity Stunt?

by: Dion Johnson Special to the AFRO
/ (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) /

You didn’t think this would slide without a collective side-eye, did you, Mark Cuban? Surely you jest.

Cuban, longtime owner of the Dallas Mavericks, held a press conference last week to announce that he had hired Cynthia Marshall, an African-American woman, as interim CEO of the Mavericks. The hiring made Marshall the first Black woman in NBA history to hold the position of CEO.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, left, looks on as Cynthia Marshall, new interim CEO of the Mavericks, addresses the media, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Cuban’s announcement, of course, followed possibly the worst week he has experienced as the Mavs’ owner. First, Sports Illustrated published a story that exposed sexual misconduct allegations against former team president Terdema Ussery. Then, Cuban was fined $600,000 for publicly admitting that his team is tanking its season for a top pick in the upcoming draft.

So was the hiring of a Black woman as the team’s new CEO just a public relations strategy to generate some positive headlines for his organization?  It’s hard not to speculate, following those chain of events.

Cuban told the media that he hired Marshall to spearhead a culture change needed in his franchise. The Mavericks organization has earned a reputation of being a hostile environment laced with sexual harassment and domestic violence.

“It’s wrong. It’s abhorrent. It’s not a situation we condone,” said Cuban, who said Marshall would be given full authority over non-basketball operations for the franchise as it cleans up its mess.

But how ironic is that? A Black woman gets called in to clean up the mess of the “good ol’ boys,” otherwise known as old, rich white men.

Marshall is indeed greatly qualified for the gig. Recently named as one of the top 50 most powerful women in corporate America, she served more than 30 years in management for AT&T, most as the company’s senior vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer. Regardless of Cuban’s intentions, there’s no doubting this woman is coming in to perform serious business.

“The process failed somewhere,” Marshall said at the press conference. “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 said she believed Cuban was transparent and sincere during her first meeting with him. But she still told him she would have to take time to think about the job before she took 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.”

Yet even with Marshall’s stamp of approval, the move still smells a little fishy. Certainly Cuban has always been on the cutting edge in all phases of ownership, including diversity in the workplace. So this could just be Cuban making the best hire at a time of need for his franchise. But it just seems super-convenient.  It feels like Cuban used Marshall’s hiring as an opportunity to grab some good press, especially towards the end of Black History Month.

But amid the positive feedback coming from Marshall’s hiring, we can’t forget that it was Cuban who served as principal owner of the team during its recent troubles. He can try to pass the buck, but it won’t change the fact that Cuban was the true leader of a glorified frat house and should be reprimanded as such.

AFRO Sports Editor Perry Green contributed to this article.