The problem with Mark Cuban's coronavirus slogan

2019 NBA Awards - Arrivals

Mark Cuban's really good at this. For years he's developed a brand as Mr. Reasonable, both on his television show, Shark Tank, and through interviews pertaining to his basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks. Was he positioning himself as our future pandemic savior? Probably not, but he was probably intentionally developing a brand as a trusted, non-partisan businessman willing to stand up for the little guy. Now, during a crisis, he's capitalizing on that.

Interesting. So, maybe being the first sports franchise owner to publicly declare he wouldn't furlough his employees wasn't an altruistic rallying cry? Maybe his limitless appearances on Fox News, CNBC, and sports radio stations across the country aren't just to push forward public discourse, but to push forward his presidential campaign?

Maybe his latest slogan - that the way companies operate, specifically how cautious they are, will define their brand for years - isn't his real belief, but an assertion that helps push forward his business and political ideas?

But, having veiled intentions is one thing, being flat-out wrong is another.

First of all, Cuban's caution-first slogan assumes Americans want their companies to put health over economy. Newsflash: This is America. We draw our self-worth from capitalism, materialism, and climbing the corporate ladder. I can tell you first hand, you take those things away and make me look inward, things start getting hairy. As the great Tim Dillon joked, "The American economy's gonna get back on track because Americans don't put any value on human life, their own or others. And that is a good thing." Kidding aside, as we learn more about this virus, and as we watch unemployment reach record highs, our collective focus is starting to shift from health to wealth.

Second, speaking of Americans, does Mark Cuban have any clue the type of attention deficit disorder we grapple with in this country? I can't watch Netflix without scrolling through Instagram and ordering takeout at the same time. I'm sick, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. The idea that we will remember anything a specific company did during this pandemic a year from now, let alone a decade, is the most preposterous thing I've ever heard. Mark Cuban should know this. His Dallas Mavericks were the focus of an explosive Sports Illustrated story in 2018 centered around a top-down culture of sexual harassment. That was smack-dab in the middle of the #metoo movement, and at the time it felt like we'd never forget. Except, we did. Even though Mark Cuban's one of the most hands-on NBA owners, and he oversaw that Mavericks culture, it hardly sticks to his brand at all just two years later. Cuban, of all people, should know that this society is focused on ourselves, not some corporation we have no emotional connection to.

Third, Cuban's clearly advocating for the cautious, empathetic, millennial-pleasing approach that has defined the NBA's brand since Adam Silver took over in 2014. This isn't the first time Cuban's been willing to be wrong about a prediction to score points for the league he belongs to. In 2014 Cuban said the NFL was "10 years away from an implosion" because it was getting too greedy, after it added Thursday Night Football. Fast-forward six years, and the NFL's coming off a 2019 TV ratings surge, while the NBA's ratings were down 15-20% nationally before the pandemic struck. Moral high ground tactics are the Silver-era-NBA's bread and butter, and Cuban is clearly accentuating those with his slogan.

I like Cuban and he's interesting as hell, but he's so wrong on this, and his motives are so transparent. Here he is with Trevor Noah, continuing his presidential campaign.

As Cuban said in 2014, "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered." He should heed his own advice.

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