To Shill or Not to Shill?

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Getty Images

Recently I saw an article on ESPN about former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling. Apparently he’s considering running for senator from Massachusetts in a few years.

His decision was considered somewhat controversial because he owned a video game company that received a $75 million loan guarantee to move to Rhode Island in 2010, only to go bankrupt a few years later, defaulting on the loan and costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

This was news to me. But it was Schilling’s response to criticism about the loan that surprised me:

“If I was the governor, I would have never even offered this deal. The government doesn’t belong in private business. But I’m on the other side of this. My job and responsibility is to my company and to my employees and I was doing everything I could do, within my legal means, to make that be a success.”

I had a moment of deja vu when I read this, because I’ve heard Donald Trump say similar things in the first debate. Clinton accused him of not paying contractors, and Trump’s response was that he was looking out for his company above all else.

I really struggle with this contradiction. Schilling says, “The government doesn’t belong in private business”…yet he directed his company to accept a $75 loan guarantee from Rhode Island? Really?

I appreciate the idea of looking out for your company and your employees, but why would you run a business in a way that violates your principles? That doesn’t seem like good leadership to me.

I’ve been trying to think of an example for Stonemaier Games that might help me better understand where Schilling and Trump are coming from. Using Trump’s example, what if I decided to not pay freelance artists for their work when we have a verbal agreement instead of a firm contract? I’m just looking out for our bottom line, right?

Of course, I would never do that, because it’s a terrible thing to do. It goes against my principles. I feel bad for even having typed the hypothetical example.

I really don’t mean to make this political–I’d write the same thing if Trump weren’t running for president. This is more about business ethics. When you’re running a business, is it more important to align your business practices with your principles or to put the bottom line above all else?