Culture

ESPN Shows Why Corporations Should Not Be Our Moral Arbiters

(Reuters photo: Mike Segar)
The only reason they support the Left is to avoid unfavorable publicity.

‘Amid this turbulence,” the New York Times breathlessly reported, “a surprising group of Americans is testing its moral voice more forcefully than ever: C.E.O.s.”

Vox upped the ante, explaining: “After Charlottesville, CEOs have become our public conscience.” The piece’s original title, “Corporations are replacing churches as America’s conscience,” was even more arresting.

But the real face of corporate morality was not in the wind of herd-mentality withdrawals from useless presidential advisory boards, and it was not in the earthquake of boring condemnations of “hatred.” No, it was revealed in the dumpster fire that was ESPN’s decision to pull an Asian-American sportscaster named Robert Lee from the coverage of a University of Virginia football game, on the sole basis that he shares two names with Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.

 

Some companies struggle in vain. Walmart, for example, has invested $100 million in economic-mobility programs. The world’s biggest oil companies joined together to urge President Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement on climate change. Corporations tripped over themselves to put out gay-pride-themed brands and advertisements.

As perhaps they should — contra Vox, “America’s conscience” does not reside in corporate boardrooms. CEOs have legal responsibilities to put their shareholders first, even before the common good, in some cases. Our “moral voice” must put the people first.

As ESPN and many previous examples have shown us, this often means that corporations will be risk-averse and choose to side with the Left on contentious social issues. Bandwagoning onto the right side of History and advancing the frontiers of political correctness and social coercion, these powerful companies have found that the safest way to avoid the mob is to lead it.

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Elliot Kaufman — Elliot Kaufman is an editorial intern at National Review. He studies political theory and history at Stanford University. His writing has previously appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Stanford ...

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