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It continues to be a mystery why this country’s corporations refuse to learn the lesson of previous companies who have endured bottom line harm for entering the social activist arena. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target Stores, and Gillette are just a few of the big names who suffered following social signaling as a company.
Despite these glaring examples of paying a steep price for trying to appeal to non-customers the practice still continues. Not having learned from Gillette, Harry’s Razors recently made the public announcement it was severing its connection with The Michael Knowles Show, after years of being a primary advertiser. This was based on a public outcry. It was literally that; a lone public outcry. It was a 2-follower account…run by a high school student.
In recent weeks a number of companies have risen in voice to oppose the recent voting law passed by the state of Georgia, leading to rash actions and negative public reactions. Major League Baseball boldly announced it was pulling this Summer’s All-Star game out of Atlanta in response, and they have looked ridiculous as a result. Will Smith just announced he was pulling out a film production from the state, moving it to Louisiana. That decision will cost the production $15 million, but at least they are moving to a state with…wait, more restrictive voting laws already on the books?
The CEO of Coca Cola went on the air to also voice his displeasure over the law, but instead of swaying many minds that comment led more towards discussions about Coke doing business in the far more oppressive to human rights regions in China. That level of acceptability of the Chi-Com abuses is also being heard in regards to Apple, the company behind the Will Smith film. These examples of public comments leading to public outcry and threatening their commerce are commonplace, and consistent.
They are also routinely ignored. Not concerned with cleaving their customer bases this weekend a coalition of corporate CEOs, together with Hollywood luminaries, to discuss their approach to the growing number of states proposing election reform legislation. The group signed a letter in opposition to what they called ’’discriminatory legislation’’, appearing in some major publications. Many of these are companies in need of recovering business following the pandemic, and yet here they are taking political stances which are likely to divide their potential customer base.
AMC Theaters is a particularly threatened entity, having been in some state of a partial shutdown for over a year. The only reason the company is not shuttered is the unexpected windfall it received during the GameStop stock event. Now, just as the prospect of theaters reopening looks promising, the company wants to posture publicly by joining the crowd of companies barking about non-segregatory voting laws and possibly alienating much needed customers? It defies economic common sense.
There has been impressive rake-stepping taking place at CNN regarding the matter. Jake Tapper has been one to promote the All-Star boycott, and he had a curious comment following the decision: ’’If MLB hadn’t acted, individual players would certainly have been asked from now until July whether they were boycotting or not. It would have – arguably – become a bigger issue.’’ Left unspoken by Jake is who would be making it a bigger issue — the press. This visited upon Tapper some uncomfortable questions. If he was so in favor of Georgia-based companies leaving, and/or compelling employees to boycott due to the law, what about Atlanta-based CNN??
Mr. Tapper did not appreciate this turn of the conversation. When he was challenged on the matter he became obviously angered at being called out. ’’There’s a difference between reporting on why a company made a decision and expressing an opinion about the decision.’’ That Jake pretends he and the others in the press are not making their opinion known is weak deflection. That he does not realize that his stance on reactions by companies and employees should also apply to his company and, as an employee, himself is obliviousness.
What might be most aggravating in the whole corporate/voting law dust up is that it spawned from the initial complaint lodged by the CEO of Delta Airlines, Ed Bastian. He was the first executive to voice opposition to this law, but as the Washington Post let slip in a recent piece, he was actually plugged into the crafting of the bill. In its piece about companies reacting to this law, WaPo details that Bastian should have had nothing at all to complain about.
- Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, worked directly with legislative leaders and the office of Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to exclude some of the more controversial proposals…Republicans agreed to drop, for instance, language barring most Georgians from voting by mail and curtailing early voting on weekends. They even expanded early-voting hours in the final bill.
This does wonders to undercut his complaints, as Bastian raced out in front of the cameras to act surprised and indignant about a law he technically helped to craft. This also does harm to the call to work with these companies, given this is a sign that they will not be acting in good faith if you end up working with them on legislation. As a reward Delta and its CEO have been on the receiving end of public scorn for weeks.
In the country’s contentious political climate taking sides as a company means taking up against a portion of your customers. What is the benefit of doing this? No company — Delta, MLB, Coke, and others — that has chosen to weigh in on the Georgia matter has come out looking better. The best thing to have done was also the easiest; not to have done or said anything about the issue in the first place.
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