Boardroom boycotts are reaching a fever pitch over voting rights debates in various states. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Boardroom Boycotts
Kevin Stankiewicz and Emma Newburger, writing for CNBC, report: “US corporations are facing growing pressure and threats of boycotts to publicly oppose Republican-backed election legislation in Georgia and other states that critics say harm the voting rights of Black Americans. The opposition intensified on Friday when Major League Baseball announced it would no longer hold the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta this summer.” Major League Baseball is now planning to relocate the All-Star Game to Coors Field in Denver. Other corporations including Delta and Coke have also condemned the law.
Texas will likely be the next voting rights battleground. Last week Republicans advanced legislation that would improve/restrict (depends on who you ask) voting in the Lone Star State. Now groups are putting pressure on the NCAA to come out against the Texas legislation since Texas is scheduled to host the 2023 NCAA basketball Final Four for both men and women, in Houston and Dallas, respectively. Here’s what both sides are saying about these boardroom boycotts:
On The Right
The Conservative point of view can be summed up perfectly by a tweet from Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) who said yesterday: “The ‘voter suppression’ lie from Democrats, the media, and woke corporations was so blatant, so easily fact-checked, that no amount of doubling down can save them now. They’ve been exposed. Never trust them.” Here’s how it’s playing on opinion pages.
John Feehery warns against “woke capitalists” who are “making a bargain with the devil.” In The Hill, he writes that the leftist-alignment started with the BLM protests, “when many corporations decided to donate to the Black Lives Matter organization, which helpfully funneled that cash to far-left Democratic political campaigns.” Now they are aligned in validating a phony voter suppression narrative, despite Georgia’s updated laws being “far less restrictive than what New York state already has on the books.” He explains that, while such policies alienate customers and might be “bad for the bottom-line,” this politics-first approach maintains the “big salaries” of the CEO class. Feehery ends by encouraging his ideological allies to fight the “woke capitalists,” calling it “a worthy cause for the conservative movement.”
Lucas Manfredi quotes Florida Senator Marco Rubio in his Fox News column. Rubio asks: “… will Major League Baseball now end its engagement with nations that do not hold elections at all like China and Cuba? Will [it] end [its] lucrative financial relationship with Tencent, a company with deep ties to the Communist Party and actively helps the Chinese Government hunt down and silence political dissidents?” David Aaro, also writing for Fox News, chimes in and highlights the economic damage that MLB is doing to the African-American community in Georgia where “nearly 30% of businesses in Atlanta are Black-owned.” Meanwhile, “Denver is 76% White.”
Finally, in Breitbart, Dylan Gwinn takes umbrage with the claims that “Georgia’s voting laws represent some attempt at severely restricting people’s ability to vote.” Even the Washington Post, he writes, “gave President Biden four Pinocchios for saying that the Georgia law changed election day voting hours.” In fact, he questions whether “MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had read Georgia’s voting laws before deciding to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta.” Given his decision to move the game to a state with even tighter voting laws, Gwinn wonders whether Manfred has “read anyone’s laws?”
Republicans are tired of “The Politicization of Everything” as the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote in 2017. They believe “progressive forces of identity politics [are] poisoning” everything from baseball to boardrooms and some believe it’s time to fight back.
On The Left
The left equates Georgia’s Republican voting law changes to Jim Crow-era voter suppression. They applaud the MLB and other corporations for sending a message that such policies are not socially acceptable.
In Bloomberg, Joe Nocera says that it’s the Republican party’s rightward shift that has caused the rise of boardroom boycotts. Nocera begins by outlining Corporate America’s long tradition of lobbying for “measures that would help their businesses (or hurt their competitors) while carefully avoiding the country’s larger social issues.” The reason they have shifted that posture is because today’s Republican Party has moved so far outside the bounds of acceptable disagreement that “executives feel they have no choice but to speak out.” At the same time, Nocera opines, Republicans have targeted big business by trying to “get rid of the US Export-Import Bank” while also regularly calling companies out for “crony capitalism.” Finally, Republicans have pushed “immigration restrictions” that “hurt hundreds of companies.” As Nocera puts it, “once upon a time, the Republican base was businesspeople; now it’s Trump supporters.” Combine that with the fact that “young employees are pressuring their companies’ leaders to speak out” and Nocera sees why corporate America is becoming increasingly more vocal.
Cecil Harris, a sports journalist and author, writes in NBC News that, “given Major League Baseball’s history, it comes as a pleasant surprise to see the league take such a principled stand.” He cites past segregation, as well as the fact that MLB “did not have a woman general manager until Kim Ng joined the Miami Marlins last year.” On the current voting rights issue, however, Harris thinks the “MLB can take a home run trot for ignoring any possible right-wing backlash and following a bold example set by other leagues.” Harris doesn’t think Republicans can “beat ’em,” so they want to “disenfranchise ’em” as it relates to edging Democrats at the polls. He says Governor Kemp “did not lose the All-Star Game because of “wokeness” or “cancel culture,” but because of his authoritarianism and undemocratic policies.”
Lastly, Dave Zirin echoes those same sentiments in The Nation, noting that “the cognitive dissonance” would have been too much for MLB if they had “Jim Crow Georgia standing as a backdrop” in a year when they were celebrating the late Henry Aaron. He says MLB’s decision should cause “some kind self-reflection” on the part of Republicans. Instead, they are “doubling down in a fit of tantrums and martyrdom that would shame a teenager.” Zinn ends by commending Major League Baseball for “finally doing something” and for it — “amazingly enough” — being “the right thing.”
The left sees the MLB’s decision as a clear and necessary repudiation of Republican voter suppression efforts. They’re encouraging other companies to follow suit which is why outlets like Forbes publish pieces titled: “8 Ways CEOs Can Be Corporate Activists.“
Flag This: Boardroom Boycotts
According to a 2020 poll from Just Capital, 68% of Americans said they want their CEOs to take a stand on social issues. At the same time, not everyone is happy with big business. Gallup data shows that just 26% of the country is satisfied with the “size and influence of major corporations” — a 15 point drop from the previous year. Most notably the decline wasn’t driven by the Democratic party. It’s Republicans who have turned on this facet of our society that they have traditionally supported and received support from. As NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald notes, a big reason is that “the culture war is reaching the C-suite.” What should we watch next? Well, the State Department said Tuesday the Biden administration is considering a possible boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics to protest China’s human rights record. If the Biden administration follows through, not only will this be a story in its own right but this will undercut Republicans’ argument that the President and his party are being hypocritical about calling out the MLB and staying silent on China.
Do you think CEOs should take a stand on social issues? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts.