To Shill or Not to Shill?

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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?

8 thoughts on “To Shill or Not to Shill?”

  1. At the time I’m betting he saw an opportunity and did not think he would default on the loan, he looked at it like another round of funding. It was a reward for his company relocating to the state, If he hand’t taken the loan, and they probably wouldn’t have moved.

    The other situation where trump hired people, they had agreements and he refused to honor the agreements are in a totally different situation, and it seems its something that he does regularly.

    In your terms, If you commissioned art for a game with a bonus for reprints of the game with the art, and you decided to change the art pre-release and go with another theme, would you still pay the original artist for art you no longer use for a printing of the game? That is more in line with the other example.

    • That’s true, there does appear to be a large ethical gap between what Schilling did and what Trump does. Though in terms of violating their principles, it seems that both of them did that in the name of putting their businesses first.

      For art, if someone does work for me, I’ll pay them for that work, even if I don’t like it or don’t use it.

      • I meant you had a contract that said I pay you $500 for your work, and for each reprint you get $200. However in reprints you decide not to use the art. Is it unethical to you to not pay the $200.

        It could also be that Shilling learned from the experience, and is running on a platform of not repeating his mistakes.

        • Ah, I see. No, I wouldn’t pay the $200 in that case.

          That’s fair–I do think people deserve the chance to learn from their mistakes.

  2. The Schilling issue is really difficult. I think that if I personally disagree with a government policy, but that policy could help my business, or even help me personally, I would have a hard time not taking advantage of it. I don’t think someone should be required to forgo using a program just because they disagree with it.
    I have a relative who is very conservative, and is opposed to nearly every social program ever created. But she recently turned 65, and has begun using Medicare. I’m so thankful that she can use it, because she was previously uninsured. She is also receiving what she refers to as “a stipend,” but is actually her social security benefit, which is much needed, since she has very little savings. I don’t begrudge her using these programs or think that she should turn down the benefits. She has paid into them with her taxes and earned the benefits, even though she would vote to get rid of the programs if she could.
    Donald Trump not paying people who do work for him is a completely different issue. It’s a despicable view that you have the right to not pay someone who did work for you. If you’re not satisfied, you give them the opportunity to make it right, and you pay them. I don’t consider this “Looking out for my company.” It’s more like sacrificing your integrity for wealth. Business owners should always seek to do the right thing. If that means negotiating solutions with a vendor who did unsatisfactory work, do it, but do it ethically.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Adam. I like the example of your relative. It certainly makes sense that since she paid into social security her whole life that she should get the benefit.

      Schilling, though, went out of his way to get the loan. He didn’t have to pursue it, and it seems that it directly violated his belief system.

      That said, as you noted, Trump takes this idea to the unethical extreme.

  3. Not that it makes a difference to the point of the post, but first paragraph should be “Senator from Massachusetts” and not “Governor of Rhode Island.”


    Archduke of Eastern Missouri (pending)


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