Ed Stack, the CEO of DICK's Sporting Goods, ate humble pie this week.
"I'm sorry, We clearly messed up and I can personally guarantee that next year's basketball catalog will prominently feature female athletes, as it should have this year."
Mr. Stack was apologizing to 12-year-old McKenna Peterson, a basketball player who couldn't find any women - except on page 6 sitting in the stands - in the latest DICK's basketball catalog. McKenna identifies herself as a loyal customer, having purchased her last two pairs of basketball shoes from DICK's.
After perusing the sexist catalog, she wrote a letter of complaint to Stack. And her dad, Chris Peterson, a reporter for AZCentral Sports and NBC12, tweeted a copy. That give it enough exposure to go viral.
“I think that girls should be treated as equally as boys are treated,” McKenna wrote. “It’s hard enough for girls to break through in this sport as it is, without you guys excluding us from your catalog.”
Obviously, this kind of sexism isn't good for society – or a critical customer base for DICK's. Indeed, the sporting good's company knows very welll that women of all ages are central to their financial success, and excluding women from the catalog isn't in accord with its sales strategy. For example, Forbes notes that while sales are up at DICK's outlets overall, sales are down in some areas, such as golf and hunting goods. “We saw significant strength in several areas, including categories that have received more space within our stores, such as women’s and youth athletic apparel," according to a statement released by the CEO in August.
Most sporting goods retailers already know that women are key to their success. For example, women have consistently bought 55 percent of all athlete footwear in recent years, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. No sporting goods retailer wants to offend more than half of their customers.
But Stack might yet turn this mistake into something positive. He's certainly making the right moves.
For example, he or someone at DICK's quickly got McKenna and her dad on the phone and apologized.
Then, Stack wrote McKenna a letter owning up to the problem in an honest, relatable way. He wrote: "As a Dad and former coach, I understand first hand the importance of youth sports to all kids."
DICK's also tweeted a copy of the apology letter today. Good use of social media, the same method that spread McKenna's complaint.
Finally, Stack offered to meet with McKenna and her dad, in person in Arizona, to make a face-to-face apology. No word yet on whether McKenna will accept.
But McKenna told ABC News Saturday that she's pleased Stack responded to her letter. It is important that companies like DICK's Sporting Goods take gender equality seriously, she said, "Because I think girls should be treated just as equally as boys."