The Wristband Gap
Why is 7-Eleven chintzier than Nike?
My friend Cyrus Krohn will cease being publisher of Slate on Jan. 15, when ownership of Slate transfers from Microsoft to the Washington Post Co. Before Cyrus joined Slate's publishing side, he was an editor at Slate, where he edited, among other things, a lengthy and genially quarrelsome Breakfast Table debate between my wife and me. The quarrelling delighted Cyrus, because he likes to make trouble. He was not above egging us on.
Lately, Cyrus, who made the financially sound decision to remain at Microsoft, has had his hands full managing Slate's migration from a software company to a media company, a task that requires a great deal of fiduciary sobriety. But he hasn't been too busy to notice and alert me to an embarrassing disparity between the charitable works of 7-Eleven and those of Nike and Discovery Communications. Call it the Wristband Gap.
Last night, when Cyrus wandered into a 7-Eleven to buy some beer, he spied a "Support Our Troops" wristband in a handsome camouflage-green on sale for $2.99. For each wristband sold, 7-Eleven has pledged to donate $1 to the USO "to fund programs and services for military service members and their families worldwide." An Army brat, Cyrus couldn't pass up that patriotic opportunity. He bought the wristband.
Then he went on the Internet and looked up another charitable wristband, the yellow "Livestrong" bands sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation to fund cancer research. These are being sold at Nike and Discovery Channel stores. According to the Lance Armstrong Foundation Web site, "[a]ll proceeds benefit LAF programs that help people with cancer live strong." Why, Cyrus wondered, is 7-Eleven pocketing two-thirds of its charitable proceeds when Nike and the Discovery Channel stores are pocketing none?
I'd like to believe that the answer is not that when it comes to Bush-era military spending, corporate profit is the tail that wags the dog. That's so … crude. But I can't really think of an alternative explanation. The only firm conclusion I can draw at this time is that life won't be as much fun at Slatewithout Cyrus around. Best of luck, boss. We'll miss you.
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.