Mark Cuban, Mavs CEO bridge gap with WNBA's Dallas Wings; catalyst for GEMS jersey partnership
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By SCHUYLER DIXON
DALLAS (AP) Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall learned a lot about the WNBA's Dallas Wings after owner Mark Cuban hired her in the wake of the NBA club's scandal over a hostile workplace for women.
Cuban said his team's relationship with the Wings was “minimal” before he hired Marshall five years ago. Now Marshall has season tickets to the Wings and is one of the catalysts for a landmark jersey patch partnership.
“It was all Cynt,” Cuban wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “She took the lead and put it together.”
The Wings have the Mavericks logo on their jersey along with the insignia of the NBA team's initiative called “Girls Empowered by Mavericks” or GEM. According to the Wings, it's the WNBA's first marquee agreement with an NBA franchise operating under a different ownership group.
The GEM program reaches more than 3,000 girls in the Dallas area, with camps, wellness clinics and workshops focusing on finances and leadership skills.
The agreement is another step in the rising visibility of a franchise that moved to the Dallas area eight years ago. The team plays in the arena at the University of Texas at Arlington, about halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth.
“Attendance, tv ratings, influence of their players have all grown,” Cuban wrote of the WNBA in recent years. “I think social media has been a huge needle mover for the wnba.”
The Wings are aiming for their first playoff series victory since the move from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They have a chance Tuesday night at home against Atlanta after taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series Friday.
“If we were able to have an extended playoff run, if we’re able to do something we haven’t done before,” Wings CEO Greg Bibb said, “then I think you would see some real gasoline on the growth fire of the Dallas Wings.”
Marshall and Bibb added some fuel with a deal that had its roots in discussions just before the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020.
Fast-forward to the NCAA women's Final Four in Dallas last spring, and they were at many of the same ancillary events. By then, collaboration between the franchises had grown quite a bit. Marshall, a former longtime telecommunications executive, was ready for something more.
“We just started talking again and said, ‘OK, we're beyond COVID. Let's just figure out what else we can do together and what are the next steps,'” Marshall said. “And then I went to their season opener this year, and it just dawned on both of us, like, we really have an opportunity here.”
Wings players were appearing at GEM events before the partnership was announced in August, and former player Isabelle Harrison did an internship with the Mavs. Marshall said she would like to see more internships opportunities for players.
Bibb returned to the WNBA with the Wings not long after the move from Tulsa, and a little more than two years before the Mavericks hired Marshall.
“We’ve always had a friendly relationship since we arrived in the market and they’ve always been welcoming to us and willing to help when we’ve asked,” Bibb said. “But really, Cynt's arrival was the key driver in terms of us moving toward what is now a formalized multi-year relationship.”
Bibb's previous WNBA experience came with the Washington Mystics, one of five teams owned by the NBA teams in their markets. The Wings are among seven teams independently owned.
“There are pros and cons to both,” Bibb said. “Obviously, if you're part of a bigger enterprise ... the resource base is just different. If you're working independent, though, the real advantage you have is that everyone that’s working here wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night thinking about how they move this specific business forward.”
Once she learned more about the Wings, Marshall couldn't stop thinking about how to move the partnership forward.
Cuban brought Marshall in soon after a 2018 Sports Illustrated report detailed years of incidents of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct in the Mavericks' business office. Cuban also didn't fire a writer for the team's website after learning of a second allegation of domestic violence against him.
The owner said he was largely unaware of the hostile workplace allegations, and a report released about six months after the details were made public backed his claim. Cuban was faulted for not being more proactive, and he donated $10 million to causes supporting women.
“We’ve worked really, really hard over the past five years to live up to our values of character, respect, authenticity, fairness, teamwork and safety, both physical and emotional safety,” Marshall said. “We never stopped to think, ‘How is this going to enhance our image?’ It’s in our DNA now.”
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA
Updated September 18, 2023