Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Guns and Baseball: Weighing Social Responsibility

Independence Day is a time to reflect on the rights and freedoms that makes the USA unique. Sports are deeply intertwined with American life, so it seemed only fitting that a minor league baseball team would schedule a promotion celebrating one of the most treasured and in recent years, debated rights: the second amendment right to keep and bear arms. In a sector of the sports industry in which promotions seemingly are limited only by the creativity of marketers responsible for hatching them, Second Amendment Night with the Huntsville Stars (AA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers) does not look out of place. Considering some of the promotions other Southern League teams are doing (Garden Gnome Night with the Jackson Generals and Leprechaun World Championship Wrestling with the Jacksonville Suns), a promotion saluting gun rights is no more out in left field (pun intended) than what other teams have on their promotions schedules.

Exercising Social Responsibility
Why is Second Amendment Night with the Huntsville Stars being talked about? In addition to free admission by showing an NRA membership card, the team would be holding a raffle for three guns in a tie-in with a local gun and pawn shop. It is this link with firearms that drew criticism for the promotion. Horrific images of highly publicized gun crimes in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut are too fresh on the minds of many Americans. While rights afforded by the Second Amendment have not changed, attitudes toward guns have shifted. Thus, a promotion that likely would have drawn zero publicity outside the Huntsville area a few years ago has gained national attention in recent days. The Huntsville Stars will still hold Second Amendment Night tomorrow minus the raffle for guns. The dilemma faced by the Huntsville Stars is an example of how an organization must weigh social responsibility against business decisions.

Do Good to Do Well
Americans have high expectations for businesses to engage in socially responsible behavior. Surveys done at different points in time by Cone Communications have found a large majority of consumers (80%+ depending on the survey) believe corporations should be accountable for producing and communicating commitments to social responsibility. Expectations are that companies demonstrating social responsibility will be rewarded by buyers for their efforts or at the very least companies failing to embrace social responsibility will be punished at the cash register. We will never know if the Huntsville Stars would have received negative reaction to giving away guns since that part of the promotion has been scrapped. The team announced on its website that the raffle would not be held "in the best interest of baseball." That is an often-used statement in the sport, but one that is very fitting in this situation. Social responsibility must be an overarching consideration that guides all decisions in a business.  

Sporting News - Minor League Team Cancels Gun Raffle at 'Second Amendment Night'