Why Dick’s is braver than Delta

It’s a little known war story because it was such a complete failure; Operation Market Garden.  The Allies tried to take possession of a critical bridge during a critical period of the war. They failed.  They died. The war didn’t end until months later.

So what does this story have to do with Dick’s Sporting Goods, and their announcement today that they were going to stop selling assault rifles

The Allied attack on the bridge was planned in two waves. The first wave died. The second wave watched. And then, on command, they went in after them.  

When Delta announced this weekend that it would stop its partnership with the NRA, they found themselves in the cross hairs (so to speak) of the conservative Georgia legislature; the State’s Lieutenant Governor announced that he would seek to end their tax break. Members of the Georgia GOP jumped on board, starting legislation that could end up costing Delta tens of millions of dollars. 

Dick’s Sporting Goods knows what it will cost them to stop selling assault rifles. But the way they’re doing it is likely to build their brand, not tarnish it.

Dick’s Sporting Goods certainly knows that by stating that they will no longer sell assault rifles, they are setting themselves up for the same and worse.  But they’re doing it anyway. 

And I think they’re going to be just fine. Here’s why.

The CEO, Edward Stack, talked what it felt like to see the kids outside the high school. To hear about how they suffered. He talked about his personal anguish. He did not talk about statistics, or facts. He did not give information about gun control. He talked about what he felt, not what he believed.

And the line that resonated with me, above all others, the line that will never go out of my mind when I think about Dick’s Sporting Goods?

“If the kids can be brave….we can be brave.”


Delta told us what they did. But Dick’s told us why they did it. We’re more likely to remember Dick’s than Delta. 

Daniel Kahneman talks about the brain as having two different kinds of systems.  System One, our “fast” brain, acts on emotion and instinct. This is the part of the brain that decides whether or not to listen when we hear something new. System Two, our “slow” brain, is thoughtful and rational — but it only engages after System One gives the go-ahead. 

That’s why research shows, again and again, that trying to get people to change their perspectives by giving them information does not work. It’s why information and statistics about gun control do not change minds or create policy. It’s not that we never listen to analysis. It’s just that we don’t listen to analysis until after we’ve decided that we’re on board. System One decides what to believe. System Two backs that belief up.

So by leading with emotion, by talking about this as an act of bravery, Edward Stack is tapping into System One. This doesn’t mean that they won’t get pushback, or that there won’t be consequences. 

But it does mean this. It means that people like me, who never thought about Dick’s Sporting Goods in any sort of emotional way, who never had any connection to the brand, now thinks “Oh, Dick’s Sporting Goods. They’re brave. They care about what they sell. They care about what they do.”

I didn’t think any differently about Delta, after their announcement. They got business pressure. They made a business decision. They may regret it or not. I don’t know, because they’ve never told me how they feel.  I don’t feel any personal connection to Delta, other than they decided under pressure to act. 

But Dick’s? Dick’s was brave. They were in the second wave, and they went anyway.

That’s something I won’t forget. And I doubt many other people will forget it, also.

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