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The New Fad is Equality: NBA’s All-Star Ultimatum


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s recent ultimatum to the State of North Carolina was a very calculated move.

Expressing his dissatisfaction with the state’s efforts to make bathrooms and locker rooms safer, Silver sat down with Mike & Mike in the Morning to discuss, among other things, the NBA’s future plans in North Carolina.

He delivered a not-so-thinly-veiled threat to the state: lose the “discriminatory” law, or lose the 2017 All-Star Game.

Sports teams and leagues regularly employ this tactic when trying to achieve a desired outcome.  In 2014, the NFL threatened to remove the Super Bowl from Arizona if then-Governor Jan Brewer didn’t veto the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  She did. And through Governor Brewer’s weakness, the NFL — and every other corporate interest — learned that all they needed to do was bark really loudly and they’d eventually get what they wanted.

So why does a league like the NFL or NBA, composed almost entirely of heterosexual players, followed predominantly by heterosexual fans, care so much about “equality”?

Here’s one theory: they may not.

During the eco-friendly revolution of the 2000’s, dozens of companies jumped on board with the green movement.  While some of these companies undoubtedly had an interest in helping the environment, others knew that, if messaged properly, the American consumer would be more likely to do business with “green” companies than “non-green” companies.  As a result, more than half of the world’s consumers will choose to buy a product from a company with a green reputation, even if it costs them more.

It’s simple consumer psychology: create a favorable image in the heart of the consumer – let them feel as though their purchase changes the world for the better – and you’ll gain customers for life.

Enter again, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Despite the fact that at least 59 percent of Americans believe that a person should use the facilities that correspond to their biological sex, 82 percent of American consumers are more likely to do business with companies that are sympathetic to the LGBT cause.

Like many corporations, the NBA’s sudden love for “equality” is highly predictable.  By messaging properly, they can win dollars from those sympathetic to the LGBT cause, while simultaneously using North Carolina as a free platform for advertising for their “inclusive” brand.  All they have to do is pretend to care.

The NBA’s ultimatum to the State of North Carolina is an experiment in power.  The NBA knows that cancelling the All-Star game would only hurt small businesses — restaurants, bars, and hotels — owned by the ordinary Americans who buy tickets to see basketball games in the first place.  Not to mention the millions of dollars it would cost the league to cancel its plans and move elsewhere.  They’ll never do it.

Governor McCrory and other North Carolinians should call the NBA’s bluff.

North Carolina extended the invitation to the NBA to host the game in the first place, and if corporations like the NBA care more about making money than they value privacy and safety, then they deserve to be uninvited to the party.  When it comes to changing law, the only power that the NBA holds is that which the state and the people of North Carolina give to it.

For many corporations, sudden solidarity with the LGBT movement is a business decision.  If large corporations like the NBA can use an already-established political movement to successfully shake down a state government, then they can achieve exactly the business environment they want without ever paying lobbyists a thin dime.

Whether or not North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory capitulates on the NBA’s ultimatum may forever determine whether or not the sovereignty of states will be controlled by threats from corporate interests.

This sudden popularity of LGBT programming — and the supposed unwavering support offered by some of the corporate world — is probably nothing more than a business forecast of the American consumer.  In their estimation, companies like Apple, Facebook, and the NBA are simply anticipating — like the green revolution — that the next fad is equality.

And you can bet your last penny that they won’t leave a dollar behind.

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