Mavericks’ Cynthia Marshall: ‘I want to do it for the sisterhood’
Seven things to know about the new CEO in Dallas
[Editor’s note: On Wednesday, a 43-page report outlined numerous charges of alleged sexual harassment within the Dallas Mavericks organization, some of them singling out Terdema Ussery, the team’s former president and CEO. The team’s new CEO, Cynthia Marshall, said during an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump on Wednesday that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has given her the mandate to “transform the culture,” a task that is well underway. Here’s the story The Undefeated ran on Marshall in February, when she was hired as interim CEO.]
In the 25 minutes Cynthia Marshall sat next to Mark Cuban during a news conference on Monday, the interim Dallas Mavericks CEO was able to accomplish what few have succeeded in doing with the longtime team owner.
She kept the usually outspoken Cuban quiet.
Marshall appeared in complete control during her first public appearance in her new position. Her goal: to clean up the environment surrounding the Mavericks, whose alleged culture of sexual harassment and domestic violence was outlined in a damning Sports Illustrated article last week. Marshall thanked all the women who spoke out in last week’s report and vowed to make the Mavericks’ workplace a model for other companies to follow.
“I’m doing this, obviously, because a very passionate and heartfelt plea was made,” Marshall said. “It’s also personal. … I want to do it for the sisterhood.”
Who is the woman hired to clean up the mess in Dallas? Here are seven things you need to know about her:
MARSHALL SPENT MOST OF HER PROFESSIONAL CAREER AT AT&T
Marshall began work at AT&T in 1981, shortly after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in business administration and human resources management.
After rising through the ranks, Marshall was named the president of AT&T in North Carolina in 2007, and in 2012 she was promoted to senior vice president of human resources/chief diversity officer for the national office.
In 2015, Marshall was named one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise.
She left AT&T in 2017 to start her own consulting firm.
A FEMALE BOSS ONCE TOLD HER SHE WAS TOO ETHNIC
The reason, Marshall told an audience at Berkeley’s Women’s Empowerment Day in 2015: She had braids and wore red shoes with heels.
That night, Marshall took out her braids and purchased a pair of neutral shoes. It’s a decision that she regretted, as she told the group of women to “stand your ground and be your authentic self.”
SHE WATCHED HER FATHER SHOOT A TEENAGER IN THE HEAD
As she tells the story in an AT&T promotional video, Marshall was 11 when her father was confronted by a teenager at the front door of their public housing in Northern California. Instead of staying in a back room with her siblings, Marshall was curious.
“I came to the front door and saw a young man point a pistol down actually towards me,” she said. “My father responded in self-defense. Fortunately, it wasn’t fatal.”
Marshall said the family was sequestered in the house for their own safety. When she returned to school, she was escorted by a uniformed police officer.
SHE DESCRIBES HER PARENTS’ DIVORCE AS ‘VIOLENT’
Marshall said she was once hit so hard by her father that her nose was broken. The relationship was so abusive that the family was forced to leave the house. When they returned, everything was gone except for a mattress.
“He said we’d be hookers on the street without him,” Marshall, who was 15 at the time, said in the AT&T profile. “My mom said at 15 years old I responded, ‘No, we’re going to be the first in the family to go to college’ … and that I was going to be the president of something one day.”
Marshall received a full scholarship to Berkeley. She said her experience in a violent household is motivation in her current position.
MARSHALL DUMPED HER BOYFRIEND TO FOCUS ON COLLEGE
During her first week of college, she received a call from her boyfriend, who told her he was transferring from Fresno Community College to San Francisco State to be closer to her. Marshall’s response, as told to the 2012 Guilford Education Alliance Education Summit:
“I’ll call you when I graduate,” she recalled. “I told him I have to focus. I told him I don’t have time for some smooth-talking cutie who wants to play when I need to study.”
She called him on her graduation day, inviting him to a party. He told her that he couldn’t come because he was engaged.
Marshall was able to persuade him to attend her celebration.
“I’ve been married to that man for almost 30 years,” Marshall said of her husband, Kenneth. “I told him, ‘You were that close to missing your blessing.’ ”
MARSHALL IS A CANCER SURVIVOR
This was the message in a 2010 call from her doctor: “I have news. It’s bad, and it’s significant.”
Marshall had stage 3 colon cancer, one lymph node away from being stage 4.
She was confident that she would beat it. She wrote an email to her boss with a message that she asked be shared with all of her colleagues: “I was uniquely qualified to get through this. And by the end of the summer, I will not have cancer.”
By the end of that summer, Marshall was cancer-free.
MARSHALL WAS WEARING THE SWEATS OF ANOTHER BASKETBALL TEAM WHEN CUBAN CALLED
Marshall wouldn’t reveal the name of the team during Monday’s news conference.
She actually missed Cuban’s first call and text and said she wasn’t familiar with the billionaire owner, even though she worked in Dallas.
“He said he was Mark Cuban, and I said, ‘OK, who is that?’ ” Marshall said at the news conference. “My kids know him, they watch Shark Tank, and they said, ‘Ma, you missed Mark Cuban’s call?’ I’m like, ‘Who is that?’ ”
The two spoke for 52 minutes.
“What really made me say yes was this was my opportunity to actually be a part of the solution with a lot of other people,” Marshall said. “He was so transparent. … I knew I was dealing with a person of integrity.”
She met with members of the Mavericks before her news conference.
“I know a lot of this is in the past, and let me make it clear — if it’s in the present, it won’t stay,” Marshall said. “Because my brand is attached to it now.”