I wrote in passing yesterday that we needed to do "the Mark Cuban thing" on a national scale, and some of you asked for clarification.
And then Cuban did another brilliant thing this morning.
So let me explain.
First: it's last Wednesday night. My parents are staying over with us, as they did occasionally back in the days before the coronavirus lockdown. We're all watching the Denver Nuggets play the Dallas Mavericks on ESPN because my sister works for the Nuggets, so it's a fun family solidarity thing. But then a strange thing happened--Doris Burke recounted on air that the NBA had just had to cancel the Utah/Oklahoma City game right before tip-off because a player tested positive for coronavirus. And just minutes later, the NBA suspended its entire season while the games in progress continued.
It was immediate chaos at home--my sister on speakerphone with my parents, my husband on calls upstairs, and me going back and forth while keeping an eye on Twitter, which is where we all saw the clip of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's dramatic reaction--clutching his chest, jaw open in shock--when he saw the news of the suspension.
Cuban was sitting on the sidelines of the Mavericks game, so ESPN's Tom Rinaldi went up to him during a break and asked him to share his thoughts on the dramatic move the NBA had just made. Cuban didn't even remotely second-guess the NBA's decision, said he understood and supported it, and added at the end that he'd try to find a way to support his staff and the arena workers who'd be negative affected by the move. It was brilliant. Then, in a press conference after the game, he elaborated: "I reached out," he said, "to find out what it would cost to financially support people who aren't going to be able to come to work." He said he didn't have the full details of how this would work yet (obviously!), but that making sure employees had pay was important to him.
That is leadership! Do you know how relieved his employees must have immediately felt? Instead of suffering terrible uncertainty by themselves, nervous about those who rely on them financially, they could move forward with some degree of confidence that their billionaire owner would find some way, any way, to help take care of them.
That's what I mean about needing that right now on a national scale. Tell people they will get paid! They will even get a little bit extra! Businesses will get help! We'll figure out the details but do not panic; help is coming. We needed that message weeks ago and we especially need it now, from both parties, no politics. This is not a normal recession that ends a business cycle. This is the country struck by a virtual meteor.
Now people are arguing about whether the payroll tax cut really helps everyday Americans or not, and whether we should "bail out" the airlines, etc., etc., and I'm trying hard not to scream shut up!!! Not every piece of this plan will be perfect and who cares we are going to take care of vulnerable Americans both physically and financially. The details can be worked out as we go. We just have to get going already.
Which brings me to what Mark Cuban tweeted this morning: two genius moves that could help this financial relief keep moving forward at the national level without provoking everybody's ire about who's benefiting at the expense of whom and so forth. He wrote: (1), any industry that's bailed out should be required to offer all incentives (cash, equity, repricing of options) to ALL employees, and (2), no stock options can be repriced at lower levels unless ALL employees own stock. "Every one," he insists, "must be treated equally."
Messaging matters right now, and Cuban gets it. He got it last week: reassure your most vulnerable workers that they will be okay, figure out the details later. He gets it now: reassure taxpayers that these bailouts can help ameliorate income inequality in this country in the longer run, not exacerbate it.
You know who else gets it? Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison. He reassured his country from day one that protecting "the health, wellbeing, and livelihoods of Australians" through this crisis was his--and everybody's--number one priority, and followed that up with targeted stimulus. For instance, every Australian small and medium business is about to receive a check worth between $1,300 and $15,900 in the next two weeks.
It's our turn now.
See you at 1 p.m....