Delta fires back at angry lawmakers amid NRA backlash: 'Our values are not for sale'

  • Delta CEO Ed Bastian defended his company's decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association in a memo issued to employees on Friday. 
  • Since Delta ended its relationship with the NRA last Saturday, the company has facedbacklash from some customers and Georgia lawmakers. On Thursday, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that would end the company's jet fuel tax exemption. 
  • Bastian said that the company's decision to end its relationship with the NRA was not made for "economic gain" and that its "values are not for sale."
  • Bastian also said that the airline was committed to its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. 

In a memo to employees on Friday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian defended his company's decision to cut ties with the NRA and said the airline may even end more partnerships that are politically divisive. 

Since the airline ended its relationship with the NRA last Sunday, the company has faced backlash not only from some customers, but also from Georgia lawmakers. 

On Thursday, the Georgia legislature passed a tax reform bill that excluded a provision that exempts airlines from paying the state's sales tax on jet fuel. The change means Delta will be losing out on a $40 million exemption. The state's Republican governor, Nathan Deal, has said he would sign the bill into law. 

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List of companies cutting ties with the NRA
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@enamoredgirl Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA. As a result, First National… https://t.co/uPKwPFMHxo
Allied Van Lines no longer has an affiliate relationship with the NRA effective immediately. We have asked them to… https://t.co/IQlB6e4gzi
northAmerican Van Lines no longer has an affiliate relationship with the NRA effective immediately. We have asked t… https://t.co/VLJCWSldAm
Symantec has stopped its discount program with the National Rifle Association.
@grafinator @NRA Best Western Hotels & Resorts does not have any affiliation with and is not a corporate partner of… https://t.co/eMnkiPN3YW
@iainjgrant Please know, Wyndham is no longer affiliated with the NRA.
Thank you all for your feedback. Paramount Rx issued the statement below. “The prescription discount program that… https://t.co/ZFpIwKlpej
We have made the decision not to renew our discount program with the NRA. We will be asking them to remove our info… https://t.co/4eqO3kUR1W

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Despite the move by Georgia lawmakers, Bastian said in the memo that the company stands by its decision. 

"While Delta's intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course," Bastian said in the memo.

"Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale. We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature."

Bastian also said that the decision to abandon the tax exemption would not change the company's commitment to Atlanta as the location of its headquarters. 

You can read Bastian's full statement below. 

This week, you have likely seen Delta in coverage of the national debate over gun control and security in U.S. schools.  I want to take the opportunity to update you on how we got here and where we stand.

On Saturday, Delta rescinded a one-time group travel discount for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and asked the organization to remove our name and logo from their website. This decision followed the NRA’s controversial statements after the recent school shootings in Florida. Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case.

I have heard from many of you over the last few days. Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides. Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate.

While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course. Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale. We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.

None of this changes the fact that our home is Atlanta and we are proud and honored to locate our headquarters here. And we are supporters of the 2nd Amendment, just as we embrace the entire Constitution of the United States.

I have tremendous respect and admiration for Governor Nathan Deal, and thank him for the work he has done on the jet fuel tax exemption. He is a great friend to Delta. I know this action by the state legislature troubled him as it does all of us.

I know it is not comfortable to be caught in a highly emotional debate, and many of you have received questions from customers. We are at our best when we bring our customers and our world closer together. Hopefully, our decisions this week will serve this ultimate cause.

I want to thank every one of you for your professionalism and continued focus on taking care of our customers every day.

Ed

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