It cost them more than this. Same-store sales were down 3.8 percent during the first year after Dick’s went anti-gun crusader in response to the Parkland shootings.
But the interview snippet here is about people resigning from the company in protest of the social/political stance the company took, and Edward Stack, who’s been the CEO since 1984, is pretty upfront about the fact that this happened:
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Now to be sure, 62 resignations out of 40,000 employees aren’t going to throw the company into chaos. I’m sure Dick’s absorbed the losses just fine, and I suspect Stack is sincere when he says he thought it could have been worse.
But this is the problem corporations encounter when they feel the need to give into activist passions of a moment. Access to guns is not what caused the Parkland shootings. With the passage of time we’ve learned a lot more about what went wrong that day (cowardly sheriff deputies not going in to stop the shooter) and in the run-up to that day (far too much reluctance to take disciplinary action even when there was clearly a serious problem).
There were ample opportunities to stop Nikolas Cruz from becoming a mass shooter between the time when he acquired the gun and the time he opened fire. The people who should have taken those steps did not. This didn’t happen because Dick’s Sporting Goods sold semi-automatic rifles.
But the aftermath of every shooting is a fevered demand for gun control, amplified by a supportive media and moralizing politicians. Corporations for the most part don’t embrace strongly held political of social positions. They just want to be able to do business without having any problems. But in an atmosphere like the one that existed after Parkland, many of them feel that if they announce a change in policy that will please the activists, it will either buy them goodwill, or at the very least avoid letting them become a target of the activists’ ire.
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I am not suggesting that Mr. Stack was insincere in his belief that this was the right thing to do. But I think that, if he’d thought it through a little more carefully, he would have realized this was an empty gesture that would cause the company problems – losing good people as well as sales – without really doing anything to make a dent in the problem.
Maybe Dick’s feared protests and boycotts from the left if they continued to sell the weapons they abandoned. One of the reasons corporations so often take these actions to mollify left-wing demands and not right-wing demands is that leftists tend to be more determined in their protests and boycotts. And leftists have the mainstream media on their side.
Is it a bad idea for businesses to cave to political pressure?
There were plenty of conservative Second Amendment supporters who were upset with Dick’s for its decision and talked of boycotts – and it may have made some difference in the sales decrease – but people huffing on social media is not the same thing as a concerted, coordinated effort that really produces a major impact. Conservatives aren’t set up to do that because we’re busy doing our jobs and living our lives, while the left spends its time obsessing over activism.
But letting activists intimidate you into making moves you wouldn’t otherwise make rarely brings the rewards you hope, even as you find yourself living with the consequences. Whatever glowing media coverage Dick’s got didn’t translate into sales, but you can bet that if they reverse the decision at any point, they’ll get absolutely killed for it.
It’s a tough spot to be in, and I’m sure Dick’s will survive, but maybe they should have thought this through more thoroughly before they knee-jerked and gave in to the irrational passions of a moment.
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