There comes a time when major U.S. commercial interests have to stand for something other than the blind pursuit of money.
Contrast the principled stand of Edward Stack, chief executive of Dick’s Sporting Goods, with that of National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver when the two grappled over the question of principle versus profits. One walks around today with his head held high, knowing his integrity is intact in spite of the financial consequences he suffered. The other is, well, Adam Silver.
In Stack’s case, the hard choice was his decision in 2018 to stop selling assault rifles and high-capacity magazines at Dick’s stores. Gun fanatics declared a national boycott, but Stack stood his ground, ordering all Dick’s outlets to return their existing inventory of assault rifles so they could be destroyed. Dick’s Sporting Goods suffered about $250 million in lost sales, Stack estimates.
His new book, “It’s How We Play the Game: Build a Business. Take a Stand. Make a Difference.,” details Stack’s gut check over the retail gun market’s role in America’s mass-shooting epidemic. In the absence of strong leadership from Washington, he says, someone else had to step up.
“The majority of the leadership seems to be coming out of the private sector,” Stack said Oct. 7 on public radio’s “Marketplace” broadcast. “I’m not sure that’s the way it should be, but that’s the way it is.”
Contrast that with the kerfuffle after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey publicly supported Hong Kong’s democracy movement, tweeting: “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Oops. It turned out that the NBA has a $1.5 billion streaming deal in the works to broadcast NBA games to China’s more than 1 billion population. China, whose government holds a monopoly on the freedom of thought, expressed its displeasure. The NBA quickly caved.
The NBA issued a statement Monday acknowledging Morey’s remarks “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” On the same day, however, the NBA also posted a statement in Mandarin on Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like service, in which it said “We are extremely disappointed in the inappropriate comment by the general manager of the Houston Rockets” and that Morey “undoubtedly seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese basketball fans.”
“Listen … @dmorey does not speak for the @HoustonRockets,” tweeted Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta.
“We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” said Rockets star guard James Harden.
U.S. basketball fans joined fans of freedom in a nationwide double take, collectively asking: Why is the NBA standing in defense of one of the world’s most oppressive dictatorships?
Only then did Silver emerge on Tuesday to clarify: “The long-held values of the NBA are to support the freedom of expression and certainly freedom of expression by members of the NBA community.”
Glad that’s cleared up. Word has it Silver and his NBA cohorts are collaborating on a new book: “It’s How We Play the Game: Build a League. Don’t Take a Stand. Bow in deference.”