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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Strategic CSR - Patriotism

The article in the url below tackles the issue of active stakeholder engagement. In particular, it discusses the politicization of sports here in the U.S. in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks:
"I think back to that Tuesday morning nearly 17 years ago. I was living with my fiancĂ©e on 49th Street and 10th Avenue in New York, Hell's Kitchen, covering the Yankees for The Bergen Record, when the World Trade Center fell. It changed many things. For any American born after, say, 1985, it became the most defining day of their life — their Pearl Harbor, their Cold War, their Vietnam and Watergate. But it also changed how sports were sold, packaged, perceived and marketed."
The author, who has just published a book on this subject (The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism), argues that, what was originally intended to be a unifying force for a wounded country has been corrupted into paid advertisements designed to encourage military recruitment. More importantly, it has had a damaging effect on public discourse, where any attempt to divert from the accepted norm becomes an act of disloyalty:

"It all felt right, until temporary grieving turned into a permanent, commercial bonanza — and a chilling referendum on who gets to be American. But then it didn't feel right, like when in 2008, a New York police officer ejected a fan at a Red Sox-Yankees game after he left his seat during a seventh-inning-stretch recording of 'God Bless America.' Recently a high-ranking Red Sox official told me — nearly 17 years after the towers fell — that he really doesn't know why the team still plays 'God Bless America,' but he knows this: The team would 'get killed' publicly if it was the first team to stop doing it."

A good example of the 'corruption' of the patriotic displays at sports events is the extent to which they are manufactured, rather than being organic and spontaneous:
"There was another major pivot when the Department of Defense surreptitiously began paying sports teams to embed the military in the game — paying to have servicemen strategically seated at games, surprise homecomings as in-game entertainment, American flags the size of the football field — as recruiting tools. The public wasn't told that the displays weren't organic support of the troops but a business transaction between military and team. The commercials followed."
The author argues, persuasively I think, that this has had ramifications for those athletes who seek to use their platforms to promote social change; in particular, it has served to further smother the voice of African-American athletes. The conclusion is that this has been allowed to happen by everyone else. At some level we know, but we either no longer care or are too nervous to speak up:
"On it goes, the perfectly scripted games, with Law Enforcement Appreciation Night in Dallas and anti-police protests outside a Kings game in Sacramento. Sports have been remade since Sept. 11, and nobody seems to care. People even acknowledge paid patriotism to be a deception, but have decided incongruously that it's a 'harmless deception.' Ultimately, I reached another conclusion: I no longer ask 'How did we get here?' but 'How do we get out of here?' and do we even care enough to try?"

The tie-in to Strategic CSR is the idea of stakeholder engagement – that, much of what our society has become (the freedoms and rights that we have) has been won at great cost. In other words, what we take for granted is not the natural state of being, but something that has to be constantly fought for and renewed. To the extent that we give up that fight, then society can quickly revert to what was before. If we are doing that consciously (if it is change we are choosing), it is OK. If we are doing it negligently, however, then we are sacrificing much of what many others before us struggled to achieve, and we will be worse off as a result.
Take care
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How Did Our Sports Get So Divisive?
By Howard Bryant
May 12, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final