The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced this week that the Dallas Mavericks received the 2022 Inclusion Leadership Award, marking the second straight time the franchise won the honor.

The NBA Inclusion Leadership Award, presented as part of the NBA Annual Sales and Marketing Awards, is one of the top business honors bestowed by the league each year. The award recognizes an organization’s history and commitment to inclusion as a key business strategy, evaluating the team’s full slate of inclusion programming. The Mavs also won in 2020. This year’s NBA awards are based on franchise’s performances during the last 24 months and combines the 2021 and 2022 years due to COVID-related challenges.

The NBA noted several reasons the Mavericks won, including the franchise’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dallas also “leads the NBA in women of color in business leadership roles,” the league announced.

The Mavericks are led by Cynt Marshall, the first African American woman to hold the CEO role for any NBA team.

Since Marshall’s arrival to the Mavericks in 2018, the organization has undergone a dramatic transformation. The Mavs’ leadership team is now 50% women, and vice-president-and-above employees are now 50% BIPOC.

Furthermore, the Mavericks are the only team in the NBA with a Black president of basketball operations/general manager (Nico Harrison), assistant general manager (Michael Finley), head coach (Jason Kidd), head gaming coach (LT Fairley) and female assistant coach (Kristi Toliver).

“Our workplace promise is that every voice matters and everybody belongs,” Marshall said. “We dreamed of creating an environment that set the global standard for fan experiences, emotional connections, and workplace culture. Our employees believed in our vision to create a cultural transformation that excited, inspired, and united everyone. It’s truly an honor to receive the 2022 NBA Inclusion Leadership Award.”

The Mavericks won the 2022 NBA Inclusion Diversity Award due to the franchise’s commitment to DEI through their CRAFTS Diversity and Inclusion Strategy – which stands for Customers, Reputation, Agenda for Women, Family, Talent, and Suppliers.

Additionally, they have expanded their employee resource groups, developed a community conversations series, and created inclusion councils to serve internal and external constituencies.

The NBA also recognized the Mavericks for several other awards.

Gina Chapa, who serves as vice president of guest experiences at the American Airlines Center, earned the 2022 Pete Winemiller Guest Experience Innovation Award, given to one employee from each franchise who creates a world-class experience for fans.

Additionally, the Mavericks won an award for Total Season Ticket Sales, along with the Boston Celtics, LA Lakers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors. Dallas, Brooklyn and Phoenix also won the Partnership Growth Award.

Team leaders say they are proud of the numerous accomplishments for the franchise this year, but perhaps, none more than the transformation of the workplace culture and demographics.

Marshall appointed Gail O’Bannon back in 2018 to oversee the team’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. O’Bannon started in the ticket sales and service department and now holds the title of Dallas Mavericks VP of Diversity and Inclusion.

She created an ongoing DEI training and development program, with nearly 70% of the total workforce now involved in an Employee Resource Group (ERG). The Mavericks have groups to empower women, working parents, a Black Employee Resource Group, a group for employees under age 30 or less than five years tenure, Somos Mavs and Lotus (Asian-American and Pacific Islander).

“Our diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategy that we implemented in 2018 as part of Cynt Marshall’s 100 Day Plan has truly become part of the fabric of our organization, our community, the NBA family, and other industries around the globe,” O’Bannon said.

“I’m so proud of our staff for putting in the DEI work both internal and external, listening and learning from each other and our community So, to be recognized twice within the last couple of years by the NBA confirms that there’s a true business case to have a DEI strategy.”

The Mavs, just like the rest of the NBA, faced extraordinary circumstances during the pandemic, and the team said this only solidified the franchise’s desire to become leaders who listen, learn, and take proactive steps to make sustainable changes in the workplace and community.

In the aftermath of the boycott of Game 6 of the 2020 playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks pledged seven days of ACTION! to combat racial injustices around the country and to bring attention to, lead change and invest in organizations fighting racial disparities and inequities in the North Texas area.

Something the Mavs call “The HUDDLE” also spawned from the Mavs Take ACTION! program. The HUDDLE is a series of conversations with current and former Dallas Mavs players, team representatives and community figures to eliminate the racial divides, uplift communities and empower future generations. Over two years later, the Mavs Take ACTION program stands strong with three full-time employees devoted to the cause.

The Dallas Mavericks also helped the AAC open the doors during the presidential elections to serve as the largest polling center in North Texas.

The franchise also continued the GEM program this past year – which stands for Girls Empowered by Mavericks. The cutting-edge program was created to inspire the future generation of girls between the pivotal ages of 9-14. GEM aims to inspire and empower young females with physical activity as a backdrop to their continued development and success.

The NBA also noted how the Mavericks implemented a program with a network of influencers to create awareness of cultural-themed nights, which generated millions of impressions on social media.

Marshall: “We sought to create a best-in-class operations infrastructure with values that stressed the importance of character, respect, authenticity, fairness, teamwork, and safety. I’m extremely proud of our employees, and this is just the beginning.”

All 30 teams had the chance to submit nominations in each category for awards recognizing leaders and innovators across critical areas. A committee of NBA and team executives then selected the winners.


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