business. If I’m honest, I wanted to
build something myself.
You took your first big risk on
a big-box store in Syracuse,
New York, in 1987. What drove
You could see what was going on with
the big-box retailing. When I saw the
big-box home-improvement stores,
when I saw what was going on with
Sport Mart or Sports Authority, I
thought, “These guys have much
better stores than we do. If they ever
come into our town, we can’t compete.” Fear is a great motivator.
So how were you able to fend
o; better-funded rivals?
How can I say this? I don’t think
sporting goods stores had real, professional management teams. They
were really mom-and-pop operations
that got big and then flamed out.
We’d have to have a di;erent conversation about Sports Authority. Sports
Authority was just mismanaged.
But Dick’s was a mom-and-pop
too. How did you become
The first thing I did when I bought
the business from my father was put
together a board of directors. I knew
there were a lot of things I didn’t
know, and that I would need some
people to guide me. They were really
helpful. They weren’t afraid to look
at me and say, “You know what?
You’re full of shit. You shouldn’t be
doing that.” If you don’t have people
who will call BS on you, and you
start to believe your own BS, you
have a problem.
When you and your siblings bought
your father out, how did you
emerge as the controlling partner?
Family businesses with siblings can
be di;cult. If there’s not someone
in charge who has the final decision,
there can be a lot of fighting, di;erences in opinion. My father put
together two classes of stock. I had
51 percent of the voting control. If we
had not had two classes of stock and
someone clearly in charge, our business would not be where it is today.
You struggled initially to land big
brands like Adidas, which deemed
you too small a player. How did
you win them over?
Adidas, Puma, and Callaway. It was
So you just had to hang in there?
very di;cult, because we wanted to
expand into athletic footwear, and
then later golf. Adidas and Puma were
like Nike is today: If you didn’t have
them, you weren’t really relevant. We
tried and tried. It was really frustrat-
ing that they wouldn’t sell to us—
wouldn’t even talk to us. The biggest
reason we were finally able to land
Puma and Adidas was not necessarily
what we did. It was because Nike
started to gain market share. And Nike
was selling to us. I was very persis-
tent, but it wasn’t my negotiating
skills or my persuasion skills.
It was what was going on in the
I try to let entrepreneurs know that
starting a business is not a straight
line. They can look at a business like
ours or they can look at a business
like Nike or other businesses and not
realize the dark and di;cult times
that those companies went through
to get there—the ups and downs.
You’ll have those quiet, introspective
moments when things aren’t going
well, when you’ll have so much self-doubt. Can I really get this done?
I try to persuade entrepreneurs, if
they have a great idea and they really
believe in it, to stick with it. You have
a good meal and get a good night’s
sleep, and you’re ready to go at it
again the next morning.
Following the massacre of high
school students in Parkland,
Florida, you made a huge decision
in banning assault-style rifles from
Dick’s. Take us through it.
This was a long and evolutionary
process in our discussion around
guns, of how we want to handle the
A DEMAND FOR LEADERSHIP
High school students, including Emma González (center), who survived
the attack in Parkland, Florida, marched in Washington, D.C., in 2018 to ask
Congress to stop gun violence. Lawmakers have done little.
I was in the conference room at this roundtable, and I said, “Do we really have to wait for this to happen to one of our kids before we do something?”