Scrolling and reading. Scrolling and reading. Scrolling, reading...then stopping.
When Sports Illustrated dropped it’s exhaustive report on the terrible workplace culture surrounding the Dallas Mavericks last week, I digested the story as soon as it dropped late Tuesday evening of last week. Every paragraph revealed an upsetting, uncomfortable or downright horrific detail.
Once I finished reading a handful of those paragraphs, maybe two or three, I had to stop. I had to get up and pace around my office for a bit. I’d walk to the kitchen and get a drink of water then go back. The story never got any better.
Watching, to say nothing of enjoying, the Mavericks was the last thing on my mind after reading that story. How could I? The organization allowed disgusting behavior to fester, possibly knowingly but certainly negligently, through leaders in the organization for two decades. So many victims bravely told their stories, and there must be even more who were victimized or affected still keeping their stories to themselves.
How could I root for this team? Each time you turn on the TV, buy a t-shirt or go to a game, you’re feeding money into an organization that simply failed to care about a lot of its employees for a very long time.
As our own Bailey Grey said, the Mavericks betrayed all women in and around the team. That’s not something that’s easy to support.
The saving grace, perhaps the only speck of light in the entire piece, was this paragraph:
While sources referred to the Mavericks office as a “locker room culture,” the team’s actual locker room was a refuge. Says one female former senior staffer: “I dealt with players all the time. I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue…they always knew how to treat people. Then I’d go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete shitshow. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.”
While this doesn’t even come close to making up for the terribleness around the business-side of the organization (what could?), it was comforting to know that Dirk Nowitzki and the players had no part in it. Dirk, coach Rick Carlisle and other players and coaches are rightly disgusted. Dirk said he couldn’t believe something could happen like this to “my franchise.”
But, here’s the thing: despite the players not being involved, despite Carlisle’s strong condemnation of all the behavior and using the courageous victims as strong examples for his young daughter, that doesn’t erase the pain the organization caused. It doesn’t make what happened to those victims go away. So it’s OK if you don’t want to turn the TV back on.
Because this is bigger than basketball. What happened to the women who worked for the team over the last 20 years matters way more than any ball going through any hoops. Their stories, them speaking out — that’s what matters. It was a betrayal after all.
If the feeling in the pit of your stomach hasn’t gone away, that’s OK. If you don’t want to give a penny to Mark Cuban after he presided over this culture (even if he truly was blind to it), that’s OK, too. Nothing about this is easy and nothing about this can be healed quickly. Grappling with this decision as a fan is merely a drop in the ocean compared to the grief and trauma the Mavericks caused some of their employees for over 20 years. Basketball is the least important thing about this story.
If you still want to watch, Dirk will still be here and so will Carlisle. Dennis Smith Jr. is still going to light up rims for the foreseeable future. But the Mavericks did something awful, and if you don’t want any part of that future, that’s OK. I don’t blame you.
This is going to take some time.