Like a solid, successful business, Dick’s Sporting Goods is making a sincere effort to appeal to a range of demographics. After the Sandy Hook school shooting in December, the company issued a statement that stated it would stop selling modern sporting rifles in the stores. You know, the assault rifles we hear about on the news after a mass shooting. While originally Dick’s appeared to have taken a stance on gun control and on which type of guns people should have access to, they have now flipped 180 degrees. According to a BuzzFeed story Friday, the owners of Dick’s Sporting Goods are selling the very rifles they took a stand against in a separate chain called Field & Stream.
This is not a discussion of gun control laws, but rather about the hypocrisy by Dick’s Sporting Goods. The company took a clear stance at first, which is commendable for their anti-assault rifle shareholders. But opening this new store seems insincere, especially because it violates the “Sandy Hook Principles” the shareholders are now touting.
These “Sandy Hook Principles” are not laws, but rather a list of 20 measures to curb gun violence and motions that companies selling or making guns and ammunition must support to avoid “economic divestment actions” adopted by Philadelphia’s city-employee pension fund in January. A vocal shareholder in Pennsylvania cites these principles and says the company is restricting the shareholder base. So, in essence, the assumption is that Dick’s Sporting Goods is only damaging its own business.
“We’ve bifurcated what we’re going to do here,” CEO Ed Stack said in an interview with BuzzFeed. “We’ve talked about, in Dick’s, we’re still not selling the semi-automatic weapons, the MSRs. In the outdoor category, we feel that that’s an important part of that assortment and it will be in there.”
Dick’s Sporting Goods has even detailed a new growth strategy to make $10 billion in sales by the end of the 2017 fiscal year, according to Yahoo! Finance. The company plans to accomplish this by expanding e-commerce, reevaluating returns to shareholders and opening a total of 55 Field & Stream stores throughout the country.
It hasn’t been a year and they turned around their decision on guns. Like the shareholders are screaming, it is the principle of the matter here. Large companies are taking more and more time to push agendas and to speak to the media about public issues. At this point, it is almost expected. Which is fine — we can certainly appreciate First Amendment rights.
But really? This is just unprofessional, dishonest and misleading. In a country where people are so fueled by anecdotes of children in New Jersey accidentally killing each other with an improperly locked gun or Navy Yard shootouts, there is no going back after you state an opinion on guns. Change your mind and you’re immediately a traitor.
There is this huge ethical problem here: Either take a stance or remain silent. Is the company for or against assault weapons, or are they just trying to rope in every possible demographic and make more cash? To some outsiders, this switch seems to be business at its most cynical: ‘Our main company promised not to sell certain weapons, but so we don’t lose that customer base, we’ll just offload those sales to a different branch of our organization.’
Certainly, there are no legal grounds to punish Dick’s Sporting Goods for these actions. They have not broken any law — they are a private business. However, their blatant hypocrisy is saddening, and such disregard for the principles outlined by their shareholders will certainly lead to financial ramifications that come from the business world itself.