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Meet Cynthia Marshall, the First African American Woman CEO of an NBA team

Meet Cynthia Marshall, the First African American Woman CEO of an NBA team

Photo: Jersean Golatt  

Despite a slow improvement in diversity numbers, reports show that many front-office executive seats in the NBA are still filled with an overwhelming amount of white men. But, breaking the glass ceiling in a male-dominated industry is Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall.

Marshall, who stepped into her position last year, is the first Black woman to serve as the CEO of an NBA team. She was tapped by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to help the organization turn its culture around after facing several allegations of sexual harassment and abuse under its former CEO Terdema Ussery.

In a recent sit down interview with TODAY’s Craig Melvin, Marshall, a former longtime executive at AT&T, said that when she first stepped into her role she initially couldn’t believe that she was actually making history.

“It was 2018,” she told Melvin. “I shouldn’t be the first of anything in 2018.”

She admits that when she first joined the Mavericks organization, she found the team’s front-office culture to be an unfriendly environment for both women and people of color. With a determination to bring about massive change, Marshall has already increased the team’s diversity numbers to now include nearly 50 percent of women in management roles.

“Diversity is being invited to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance,” said the University of California, Berkeley graduate. "You can be at the table, but if you aren’t being asked to talk and people aren’t including you then so what." 

When asked what being a part of Black History truly means to her, Marshall responded, “I truly believe sometimes you can’t be it if you can’t see it, and you want people to see it.” 

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