3 lessons CEOs can learn from Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s viral gun control speech
- Steve Kerr gave an emotional speech after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 people dead.
- Experts say business leaders have a responsibility to speak out on the gun debate.
- CEOs have a small window of opportunity to enter the debate, and Kerr’s speech offers some key takeaways.
“When are we going to do something,” shouted Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, clapping his hands on a table. “I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering my condolences to the devastated families out there. I’m so tired of the – excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Sufficient!”
Kerr broke pregame tradition at Tuesday’s press conference in Dallas by saying, “I’m not going to talk about basketball.” He added, “Not every basketball question matters.” Instead, a visibly distraught Kerr used the platform to express outrage in response to a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday that killed 19 children and two adults.
Experts said it was the right decision. “CEOs have a responsibility to speak out on the gun debate in a way that speaks to our common humanity and how we are responsible for each other,” said Gerard Lawson, a teacher and trauma counselor at Virginia Tech. “Coach Kerr is a good example of that.”
Over the past two years, leaders have been pressured to speak out on controversial issues, including the death of George Floyd, LGBTQ rights and abortion. With gun control issues at the center of public consciousness, CEOs seeking to speak out in favor of tougher gun laws have a small window of opportunity to enter the debate, and the Kerr’s speech offers key points.
In light of the latest school shooting, CEOs have a responsibility to speak up, lead with empathy and take meaningful action, said Lawson, who was instrumental in coordinating the board’s response. to the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, and Stacy Rosenberg, a Carnegie Mellon University professor specializing in crisis and political communication.
Many people consider CEOs more trustworthy than political leaders, Lawson said. To research suggested that CEOs were more effective than politicians in influencing public opinion.
During the press conference, Kerr accused lawmakers of inaction: “I’m asking you, Mitch McConnell — I’m asking you all the senators who refuse to do anything about the violence, the school shootings and supermarket shootings. I ask you: are you going to put your own desire for power before the lives of our children, our elderly and our faithful? Because that’s what it looks like. That’s what we do every week.
In 2019, the chief executives of 145 companies – including Uber, DoorDash and Airbnb – sent a letter in the Senate to seek expanded background checks and increased gun control following a series of mass shootings. “It’s absolutely their responsibility to use their platform and say, ‘Here’s how we’re going to fix this,'” Lawson said.
Lead with empathy
Kerr’s father was murdered in a shooting outside his Beirut office in 1984, an experience that could inform his position on gun control. “Drawing on experience and speaking from the heart, as Coach Kerr did in his speech, is always effective,” Rosenberg said.
Lawson added that business leaders should consider that many of their employees and shareholders may also have experienced past trauma sparked by the Uvalde school shooting.
“Having a trauma-informed workplace means that we better understand the depth and breadth of how people have experienced trauma in their lives. It is important to create an atmosphere and climate in the workplace where people can talk about the things that are difficult for them, and when their mental health is not in good shape because of something like that, that they are encouraged to deal with it,” Lawson said.
Take Meaningful Action
Experts say business leaders need to do more than just talk about gun control. They must take meaningful action. Kerr, a longtime gun control advocate, previously backed a bill requiring stricter background checks to purchase firearms, which past the House of Representatives in 2021 but failed to make it through the Senate.
Hours after the Uvalde school shooting, President Joe Biden addressed the nation, promising to push for tougher gun laws. At the same time, Texas Republicans have made it clear that they will not accept any gun restrictions. It was a reminder that American attitudes toward gun violence and gun politics remain partisan.
Rosenberg said the companies could influence gun control by moving operations out of states that don’t employ guards responsible for gun possession. “It’s easier said than done. Taking over a factory and taking over a corporate headquarters isn’t necessarily doable in the short term, but should be considered a longer-term action,” Rosenberg said.
As companies distinguish between meaningful short-term and long-term actions, Lawson said one immediate thing business leaders can do is divest from financial investments that aren’t aligned with their position. . “The fruit at hand here is where you invest your money,” Lawson said. “Corporations have much bigger pockets to vote for than the average person, so they can act without any investment in gun and ammunition manufacturers.”