However, MLB didn’t stand up to Georgian lawmakers out of mere principle against the newly passed law, but rather after leftists pressure. When SB 202 was passed, Georgia-based corporations Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Delta declined to weigh in. However, their silence infuriated leftist activists, who called for boycotts of these companies.
“We are all frustrated with these companies that claim that they are standing with the Black community around racial justice and racial equality,” said LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “This shows that they lack a real commitment to racial equity. They are complicit in their silence.”
Corporations Gone ‘Woke’
Delta CEO Ed Bastian has recently been the most vocal proponent of Georgia’s voter ID law after leftists called for boycotts of his company. Mr. Bastian endorsed the legislation after it passed but did a 180 when it was signed into law. Ironically, these big corporations had no issue accepting huge taxpayer-funded incentives from Georgia lawmakers to come into the state but are now biting the hands that feed them.
Businesses, both big and small, traditionally shied away from getting political. Those days are now long gone. Companies are strategically being pulled into the midst of our increasingly polarized political climate to weigh in on all social issues. Like it or not, many companies are going to be faced with difficult decisions on political grounds. Either get into the pool or not.
Steven Callander, a professor of political economy at Stanford Graduate School of Business, points out, “Activists know that applying pressure to take a stand one way or another on an issue is a great way to attract attention. So even if companies are uncomfortable with politics, they’re targets, and they’re going to get pushed into some tight spots.”
Corporations being vocal on hot-button social issues is nothing new. Back in 2012, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, came out in opposition to gay marriage. This led to progressives calling for boycotts, but Christian conservatives came out in droves to show their appreciation. The boycotts from leftists had little effect. To this day, Chick-fil-A continues to be the ‘go-to’ fast food restaurant for many Christians because of their vocal support of traditional marriage.
More recently, conservatives have not had any luck with big businesses willing to stand up for their social issues. Of note, Chick-fil-A came out voluntarily without conservative pressure on gay marriage. One reason the progressive left is gaining much more support these days is they know how to apply enough pressure to these companies that it’s worth the downside of potential oppositional boycotts.
Progressive activists know how to attract attention to their social issues, either through hashtag social media boycott campaigns or mainstream media coverage, all to apply pressure to corporations to take a stand on progressive issues. As reactionary as our politics has grown to be, it’s safe to say businesses will continue to be pressured by progressives to step into the lion’s den of politics.
However, businesses who get too deep into political waters and attach themselves to every progressive social cause, run the risk of the ‘Nantucket Sleighride.’ This is the dragging of the whaleboat by the harpooned whale. In this scenario, businesses run the risk of being dragged by progressive activists who don’t always have their best interest, take their side on every social cause, eventually causing irreparable damage to their brand in the long run.
Short-term gain for long-term pain.
Business involvement in politics is very risky. It can come with high gains if they take a stand on the correct issues with the most outstanding public support, but significant risks come when taking sides on polarized issues. In Georgia’s case, the voter ID law is a polarizing issue, and these businesses taking sides run a significant risk of damaging their companies.
Republicans Hit Back
It’s advisable for CEOs and corporate executives to know the consequences for their actions or inactions and be well-educated on the bills and issues they decide to take a side on. For example, Georgia Republicans are hitting back at Delta after their CEO lambasted the voter ID law. Republicans in the Georgia House reacted by voting to strip Delta of a tax break worth tens of millions of dollars annually. The vote was rendered symbolic when the state Senate failed to take up the measure before adjourning its yearly session.
In the MLB case, GOP Senators are planning to push to end the MLB’s antitrust exemption dating back to a 1922 Supreme Court decision and a special privilege granted by the federal government under the 1998 Curt Flood Act passed by Congress. Other professional sports leagues, including the NFL and NBA, do not have this exemption.
Nevertheless, this is the consequence of biting the hands that feed you. Stripping corporations of their local tax breaks and corporate welfare and special exemptions are the only leverage. Republican lawmakers have to hit back at these corporations. In the end, it might prove not very smart for corporations to get into the lion’s den of politics.
Michael Price is a Founder and editor for ThinkCivics. He has been writing about politics, government, and culture for over a decade. He has a BA in Political Science and an Masters in Public Administration.