In the wake of anything involving strong opinions, the first impulse from any business seemingly is to take no side. But we are now in an environment where taking no side is itself picking a side.
Despite, or maybe because of, his countless on-court accomplishments, one of the most lasting aspects of Michael Jordan’s legacy in the minds of many is a quote that distills how he handled himself off the court.
“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
To many, this quote has become emblematic of an ethos in which anyone seeking to make as much money as possible from as many people as possible should be as milquetoast as possible. The thinking goes, if you disagree with someone publicly, their wallet is now off limits to you.
I get this line of thought in the broadest sense. But also after watching the stunning and disgusting events of Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, it is more crystal clear now than it has ever been that we live in an era in which people or businesses have the freedom to just pretend they’re above it all.
Despite my use of that particular Michael Jordan quote, I’m not intending this to be any sort of attack on conservatives or, in the generalist sense, conservative values, but it is an acknowledgement that when awful things happen we need to be able to call them out regardless of whether they have connective tissue to political issues.
Ultimately, I think this boils down to realizing that businesses are, at their core, collections of people, and those people need the freedom to engage constructively in society in a way that betters it. They should not be hampered from doing so by a short-sighted belief that an air of neutrality must be preserved at any costs.
Put in the simplest sense: Be willing to take a stand when there’s a clear need for it. Put societal good ahead of profits. And, perhaps more importantly, empower your employees to do what they see as right and to be voices of good in the world right now. We need more of those, desperately, and businesses today are a serious roadblock to that happening whether they intend to be or not.
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