United Airlines and Delta joined rental car companies in eliminating discounts for National Rifle Association (NRA) members over the weekend. This, folks, is taking a stand. It is not a neutral position.
Whether you want to celebrate this move or curse it, let’s recognize it for what it is–taking a stand.
Scott Mackenzie from Travel Codex argues that companies should never have offered NRA discounts in the first place. He contends, “For companies that have nothing to do with guns, it’s just foolish to get involved by creating a formal agreement with the leading advocacy group on one side of the debate.”
And while that may be the case, it’s too late for that. These companies have already joined the debate by offering discounts in the first place. I don’t think it is fair to say Delta supports each NRA policy position by offering a discount to members. After all, this is an organization of 5,000,000 members that hosts conferences and educational events around the country. Airlines and car rental companies provide volume discounts for far smaller customers.
Gary Leff from View the Wing gets it right in arguing that clawing back discounts is not a neutral position. He notes that Delta supported Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, long before marriage equality became the law of the land. That represented taking a stand on a divisive social issue. In abandoning a pre-negoitatied, longstanding business relationship with the NRA, Delta (and others) are actively distancing themselves from the gun rights organization. That’s taking a stand.
But when you take a stand, you inevitably end up angering the other side. Or, in the case of Delta, angering both sides.
Delta’s Statement Made it Worse
Sensing backlash, Delta has issued a statement clarifying its position under the guise of neutrality:
Delta’s decision reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings. Out of respect for our customers and employees on both sides, Delta has taken this action to refrain from entering this debate and focus on its business. Delta continues to support the 2nd Amendment.
To back this up, Delta points to similar action it took over a theater that staged a play depicting the assassination of Donald Trump:
This is not the first time Delta has withdrawn support over a politically and emotionally charged issue. Last year, Delta withdrew its sponsorship of a theater that staged a graphic interpretation of “Julius Caesar” depicting the assassination of President Trump. Delta supports all of its customers but will not support organizations on any side of any highly charged political issue that divides our nation.
But let’s go back to the issue of the gay marriage for a moment. For the avoidance of doubt, the only link I am asserting between the NRA and Human Rights Campaign is that both represent a divisive social issue (or a once-divisive social issue).
Imagine if, after the Windsor case, Delta pulled its preferred rates for the Human Rights Campaign and issued the following statement:
Delta’s decision reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over marriage equality. Out of respect for our customers and employees on both sides, Delta has taken this action to refrain from entering this debate and focus on its business. Delta continues to support the 14th Amendment.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. The only side cheering would be those opposed to gay marriage. It would hardly be neutral.
Again, I want to clearly state I am not equating gay marriage with gun rights. Every analogy fails at some point and there are many reasons this is a poor analogy. But both are constitutional issues, divisive social issues, and both issues Delta took a stand on.
I try to be as apolitical as possible on this blog when it comes to discussing my own opinions. Like most Americans, I have strong feelings on the issue of gun control and the NRA itself, which I am not going to discuss here. And isn’t that revealing?
My job is to discuss travel, not spout out my political convictions. I’m not telling you how I feel about gun rights. In an era in which the country is deeply divided, opining seems foolish. I don’t want to alienate my readers. That’s a business decision.
But I recognize all the great social changes in our history required renegades with the courage to take a stand, even when it was unpopular. That’s sobering for me as I perpetually consider my role as a blogger, American, and human being.
My point is not to argue that Delta and United were right or wrong. It is merely to argue that they took a stand and should own up to it. Delta’s latest press release is laughable.