Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was part of a Town Hall discussion on Thursday morning that aired across all local iHeart radio stations.
Moderated by Jeff “Skin” Wade and Ben Rogers, the meeting was called “Where Do We Go From Here?’ and touched on a variety of topics surrounding the impact of the coronavirus that has led to the closure of numerous businesses around the world.
Here are some of the highlights of the interview:
iHeart Radio: As you project out, how drastically is sports altered by all of this?
Mark Cuban: I don’t think as much as people think. I think sports, particularly in a short term, becomes very important because we need things to cheer for. We want to be bandwagoners again, and we want to have something to get excited about and look forward to. That’s why I think particularly the NBA, because we led to the shutdown by suspending our play (on March 11). We’ve got to have a moral imperative that once we know it’s safe for the players and everybody else involved, we can play with no fans and give people something to get excited about. But in terms of getting back into arenas? Again, it’s going to be the same test. Would I bring my kids to a game? And if the answer is yes, then let’s go. That means I think it’s safe. But in terms of how it changes, I think maybe the scheduling dates may change. But that’s as much of a reflection of what’s happening in media as it is in response to the virus. I’ve always been a fan of starting the NBA season on Christmas Day. But going to back to the (former NBA commissioner) David Stern days — more than 10 years ago — the response was always there weren’t enough people watching television during the summer. Now the landscape for media has changed dramatically as you guys know, and television isn’t the way television used to be with streaming and everything. And so now’s the time to experiment and potentially change things significantly. . .And in terms of the players and the chest bumps and everything, they’ll invent new stuff, because our guys — and particularly the NBA — want to be leaders culturally. They want to be leaders in social media, and they’ll adapt just like guys did after Magic Johnson declared he had HIV in 1991. Guys changed some of their habits then. We were stupid back then and we learned, and I think the same thing will happen. We’ll look back in 20 years and think, ‘Ah, we were so stupid and didn’t understand what was going on, but now we’re smarter about it and will have adapted.’
iHeart Radio: Is the handshake gone forever? Will you shake someone’s hand again?
Cuban: Hell no. Why would you? Who needs to grab onto a palm and say, ‘Oooh, this is sweaty! That’s nasty.’ Or why should he try to squeeze my hand like he’s a bad-ass?
iHeart Radio: There’s all sort of talks about when do we re-open things, when does the economy re-open, when do people go back to normal. What is you take on that? When should things re-open?
Cuban: The first and most important thing is the medical science. When are we going to have therapy so that when somebody gets sick with COVID they don’t feel like it’s a potential death sentence? When are we going to have vaccines? That’s the most important – more important than anything else. When will that happen? I can’t give you an exact date, but am I hopeful or actually confident that it’ll happen? Absolutely! I think over the next month we’ll start to see real progress and announcements. We’ve had great scientists working on this so far. And in talking to the people at the CDC that I know, they’re very excited as well that good things are going to happen. . .In terms of when do we get open like it’s January again, I don’t know. That’s something that we have a lot of work to do before we’re ready for that.
iHeart Radio: What would you say to local business owners that are feeling that pinch because they simply don’t have money right now and they just want to open up their doors?
Cuban: It’s painful. It’s very, very painful. I’m an investor in more than 200 companies, and trust me, a lot of them are really struggling. Some of them I only have five of 10 percent, so it’s not really my company, and the best I can do is just try to support them, and it’s hard for me. But at the same time, pre-COVID, you wouldn’t do anything that puts your customers or employees at risk. . .If you rush back and one of your customers gets sick, your business is done. Everybody can say, ‘Well, you’re rich, you’re sitting there, you don’t have to worry about this day-to-day.’ But I’m involved with a lot of small businesses that do have to worry about it day-to-day, and what I just said is the exact same advice I’m giving them.
iHeart Radio: While we’re focused on the virus and re-opening the economy, there’s other things that are happening. This is impacting the food chain. Obviously here locally in Texas, what’s happening with oil is hurting our local economy as well as what’s going on with coronavirus. Where are some of the areas of industry or areas of business where you think there are opportunities that are going to arise out of this situation?
Cuban: First, I feel horrible for everybody in the oil industry. It’s like everything is piling on. Obviously, we all have friends in the business, and it’s just brutal right now. I wish I had a solution for them. If I was just graduating from college, or even a high school, I’d become an expert of Amazon Alexa and Google Home, because every business is going to want to re-do the points where people touch different things. So voice control activation is going to increase a thousand percent, and every business is going to look for ways to introduce voice over touch. . .Out of all this hell and disaster there are opportunities, and people who are creative are going to create some amazing businesses. And I say it all the time, in five-to-10 years we’ll look back and there will be 25, 50 world class businesses – probably a bunch of which were created here in Dallas. And they were only created because things changed so dramatically, and America 2.0 needed a new vision. You always just have to ask yourself — when you’re thinking of that new idea you have and you’re thinking about how you can make it work — you ask yourself, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I be the person that creates an incredible business that changes the game?’