Several companies changed their policies in reaction to the shootings at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February; only Delta Air Lines saw almost immediate economic retaliation. Days after Delta rescinded a discount it had offered to National Rifle Association members, Georgia legislators scrapped a jet-fuel tax exemption that could have provided Delta, which is headquartered in Atlanta, with a $40 million annual tax break. Lawmakers accused the airline of attacking conservatives and even the Second Amendment itself.
In a letter to employees explaining the decision, CEO Ed Bastian argued that the airline wasn’t taking sides in the gun-control debate. It ended the discount, he made clear, to eliminate any implied endorsement of the NRA, a group whose public statements in the wake of the shootings had gone far outside the bounds of civil debate. “Our decision was not made for economic gain, and our values are not for sale,” Bastian wrote. “We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.” It wasn’t the kind of ringing statement that rallies a generation of activists—but it was a template for well-reasoned business leadership in a fragmented world.