When North Carolina passed laws eliminating anti-discrimination

protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with passed its

“bathroom bill”, mandating that transgender people use the bathroom of their birth

gender, they experienced almost immediate backlash. Several artists cancelled

concerts, and at least two corporations that had planned to locate corporate

headquarters in North Carolina decided to move them elsewhere. Now, the

National Basketball Association says it will not play the NBA All Star’s game in

Charlotte, as planned. They threw the Queen City a bone by saying they “hope” they

will play the games there in 2019, implying that they will play in Charlotte if the

state changes their discriminatory laws by then. Moving the All Stars game.

Moving the All Stars game away from Charlotte is an economic blow to that

city, and to the entire state. The three day activity-filled and star-studded event,

draws tens of thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to the city. NBA

Commissioner Adam silver says the NBA has a long record of speaking out against

discrimination, and North Carolina governor has in an angry statement saying the

sports and entertainment industries have “maligned” the people of North carolina

and “misrepresented its laws.” He said “American families should be on notice that

the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on the communities in

which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

I say that the NBA has offered corporate leadership on discrimination against

GBLTQ people, and I applaud it. I am wondering, though, what it would take to get

NBA and corporate leadership involved in the unnecessary shootings of African

Americans by “law enforcement” officials. Instead of support here, the WNBA has

fined players from wearing logo-less black shirts as a “deviation from uniform”.

(Yes, I know that the NBA and the WNBA are different organizations).

What if a few leaders in Fortune 50 companies took a position on the number

of unarmed African Americans by “law enforcement” officers. What if they said that

in response to the killing of Philando Castille in Falcoln Heights, Minnesota, they

would reconsider their monetary commitment to this city or that? To be sure,

police organizations would push back, and hard, just as they have every time

President Obama says something about the ways people have been slaughtered at

the hands of police officers. Still, if corporate leadership even lifted up these

shootings as a matter of concern it might make a difference.

Or, perhaps corporate leadership could use a carrot instead of a stick, making

contributions to police training and arbitration in the name of corporate social

responsibility. What if corporate leaders offered to support a few diversity leaders

in developing training for police officers? What if corporate leaders convened some

kind of gathering that talked about the correlation between police community

relations and corporate profits?

Unfortunately, corporate leadership has been mostly missing in action on

racial justice matters because some corporations profit from racial and economic

injustice. Those who manufacture the tanks that bulldoze through our city streets

are making money from police aggression. Those who own the private prisons that

profit from mass incarceration have no interest in minimizing arrests. And those

who shilly-shally around economic justice find there is no down side to taking no

position, a tepid one, or an ambivalent one.

The NBA felt there was a downside in condoning North Carolina’s

discrimination against GBLTQ people, such a downside that they would offer a

crushing economic blow to that state. They don’t seem to care about the “collateral

damage”, those folks who don’t discriminate but will still suffer because the All Stars

game is going elsewhere. Few feel strongly enough about racial and economic

justice to strike a similar blow against it. Instead, there is head-shaking and hand-

wringing but no action.

What would be the outcome if even one corporate leader said, “We don’t like

doing business in this environment”. What if just one corporate surveyed their

African American employees about their police interactions, including unjustified

stops, “misidentification”, and the burden of WWB and BWB (walking while black

and breathing while black)? What if just one corporation said “enough” about this

nonsense? I think corporate leadership on racial economic justice could make a

difference. Where is the corporate leader bold enough to try?

__________________________________________________________________Julianne Malveaux

is an author and economist. Her latest book "Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and

Public Policy" is available via, or For

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