In an interview published in Der Spiegel today, CEO Herbert Hainer launched into an attack on protestors who have endeavored to disrupt the Beijing Olympics. “It’s OK if people use an event like this to proclaim their political views, but it is my opinion that they do not have the right to disrupt the torch relay or to try to extinguish the flame.” His company is one of the prominent sponsors of the Olympic games. He said neither he nor his compnay had any guilty conscience and insisted China had a right to use security personnel to protect the flame. “If we had nothing to hide, then we wouldn’t be sponsoring anything. The Olympic games have been part of our brand for years. It is our goal to have over $2 billion in sales in China per year by 2010.”
Hainer’s essential argument is that in sports there will always be nations with whom one might disagree regarding their adherence to democratic values, but that lies in the nature of international sporting competition. He rejected calls by those who want his company to exert pressure on the Chinese government to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama. He regards selling sporting materials as a non-political activity and to once enter the slippery road of taking one stand will invariably result in being compelled to take many stands.
Mr. Hainer raises important issues as to is there ever a point at which a business organization should allow political or ethical issues to intrude upon its commercial activities. There is no question such considerations will not be seen in the forseeable future by Adidas executives.