Last week news broke in a Sports Illustrated story about the Dallas Mavericks and the “accepted” culture of sexual harassment and misconduct. This story should come as no surprise. In many industries, sports included, there has been a long history of the acceptance of sexual harassment. In 2016, I wrote a blog post, Crisis Communications – Women… Get On Your Knees, in which Raymond Moore (the now former CEO of the California's Indian Wells Tennis Garden) made sexual comments toward female tennis players. This is just one example of many (many) incidents of sexual harassment that have just been accepted as the norm.
I want to share three tips for responding to this particular crisis situation (we assume you already have a crisis plan in place), Mark Cuban’s response and how Cuban should move forward.
Make sure your crisis team is gathered quickly and informed of the situation. While it is important to respond in a quick manner, it is equally as important to take the time to make sure you are able to respond honestly and intelligently. Even if you don’t have a full response, because you don’t have all the information, you can respond by acknowledging that you are taking the situation seriously and you are looking into it.
With the speed of social media it is sometimes shocking how quickly “news” can spread, whether it is real news or fake news. It is important to monitor not only what people are saying about the situation but also about what social media posts you are sending, especially if you have pre-scheduled posts that might appear during the crisis. A second piece of advice here is to not publicly engage with individuals who are bashing your organization.
This is not only applicable in a crisis situation, but really in any situation. When you are not honest in a crisis situation the chances of it being noticed are fare greater as more eyes are watching your every move.
What did Cuban say:
“This is all new to me,” he said. “The only awareness I have is because I heard you guys were looking into some things…. Based off of what I’ve read here, we just fired our HR person. I don’t have any tolerance for what I’ve read.” And, “It’s wrong. It’s abhorrent. It’s not a situation we condone. I can’t tell you how many times, particularly since all this #MeToo stuff has been coming out recently I asked our HR director, ‘Do we have a problem? Do we have any issues I have to be aware of?’ And the answer was no.”
“I want to deal with this issue,” Cuban told SI. “I mean, this is, obviously there’s a problem in the Mavericks organization and we’ve got to fix it. That’s it. And we’re going to take every step. It’s not something we tolerate. I don’t want it. It’s not something that’s acceptable. I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you, that it happened under my ownership, and it needs to be fixed. Period. End of story.”
Cuban did respond in a quick manner but it hard to fathom that he was completely unaware that the situation was happening. He must have had some of an idea, in my opinion. And if that turns out to be true, that he did know, his response will quickly come back to haunt him.
Be honest. If you did know about what was happening all along, come clean now. Tell the truth and have an action plan for making sure this doesn’t happen again in your organization. And share what that action plan is going to be. What are the steps the Mavericks will be taking to ensure this doesn’t happen again?