The Cuban Crisis: A season full of controversy for the Mavericks’ owner

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VikramMuller

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Back in 2011, he was NBA royalty, hitting a glorious peak. Mark Cuban, the “Shark Tank” investor and billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, had been remarkably silent in the media as his team went on the best playoff run of his ownership.

En route to an NBA championship, the Mavericks not only defeated the NBA’s then-super team in LeBron James’ Miami Heat, but they also dethroned the reigning NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, with a dominating sweep in the process.

Cuban, notoriously passionate as an owner, described his silence as being superstitious. His team was winning and he wasn’t complaining about refereeing, as he had done in his prior tenure as owner, so why start again? All was glorious.

Well, it seems like that glory — which came both from the Mavericks’ wins and from the lack of controversial publicity — is a thing of the past now.

The controversy most connected to the team’s on-court performance is perhaps the least harrowing.

Just after this year’s All-Star break, Cuban stated on a podcast that he was honest with his players about tanking the season and that based on the offseason goals of the team, losing games was in its best interest.

Cuban was fined a measly $600,000 — pocket change for him, but the third-largest known NBA fine doled out to date. Some might argue that being publicly open about your team throwing games is a horrible business decision, but others contend that if tanking leads to a great draft pick, losing is in fact worth it.

But more recently, the tanking issue has been clouded by a far more serious mess off the court.

The same week that these tanking comments were publicized, Sports Illustrated dropped a bomb on the Mavs with a detailed report of a “corrosive workplace culture” in a front office rife with sexual harassment. The report most notably identified the locker room, of all places, as a safe place, while the front office was a place embedded in toxic masculinity where multiple female employees felt unsafe in their work environment.

Cuban responded predictably to the report, feigning ignorance but accepting responsibility, and he vowed to clean up the culture of his organization.

Yet nothing has since been made public regarding efforts to do so.

Just weeks later, Cuban has found himself embroiled in controversy again, when a former employee of the Mavericks’ home arena alleged racial discrimination. Michelle Newsome claims that she was illegally fired.

Newsome emphasized a night in 2011 when she was told about and found a noose hanging in the American Airlines Center, and she alleges that Cuban was the one who threw the noose away and subsequently did nothing to address the issue.

The arena staff claimed that it was actually a Dallas Stars teddy bear, which an employee hung up to express dismay over the hockey team’s performance that season. Regardless of the presence or absence of a stuffed animal, the connotations associated with a noose should not be taken lightly, as Cuban appears to have done.

Instead of facing the issue, Cuban again sidestepped it, this time by saying that he is only a minority owner for the arena, and he has attempted to distance himself from the situation without even making a statement about what he saw.

Cuban is where all of these controversies collide, and for someone so publicly outspoken and heavily involved with the day-to-day workings of his team, it is quite simply unbelievable that he thinks acting negligent will get him, of all people, out of hot water.

If he were a distant owner, he might be able to blame management while he watched from afar. But Cuban’s crucifix might just turn out to be his vested interest in his team’s success. If he can comment on a purposeful tank, he sure as hell better know what is going on in the front office.

If not, maybe he isn’t fit to own the team in the first place.

Vikram Muller writes the Tuesday column about current events in professional sports. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @v_muller26