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For readers of Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog and Howard Schultz’s Onward, an inspiring memoir from the CEO of DICK’s Sporting Goods about building a multibillion dollar business, coming to the defense of embattled youth sports programs, and taking a principled—and highly controversial—stand against the types of guns that are too often used in mass shootings and other tragedies.
In 1948, Ed Stack's father, Richard, started Dick’s Bait and Tackle in Binghamton, New York, with $300 borrowed from his grandmother. A few years later, Dick expanded to a second location. In 1984, Ed bought the two stores from his father. Today DICK’s Sporting Goods is the largest sporting goods retailer in the country with over 800 locations and close to $9 billion in sales.
It’s How We Play the Game tells the absorbing story of a complicated founder and an ambitious son—one who transformed a business by making it more than a business, conceiving it as a force for good in the communities it serves. The transformation Ed wrought wasn’t easy: economic headwinds nearly toppled the chain twice. But DICK’s support for embattled youth sports programs earned the stores surprising loyalty, and Ed was vocal in sounding the alarm about schools’ underfunding not just of sports but of other extracurriculars, which earned DICK’s even more respect.
Ed’s toughest business decision came in the wake of yet another school shooting; this one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. The senseless loss of life devastated Ed on many levels and he decided to take action. DICK’s became the first major retailer to pull all semi-automatic weapons from its shelves and raise the age of gun purchase to twenty-one. Despite being a gun owner himself who’d grown up around firearms, Ed’s strategy included destroying the $5 million of assault-style-type rifles then in DICK’s inventory.
It was a profit-risking policy that would earn the outrage of some—even threats of harm—but turn Ed into a national hero.
With vital lessons for anyone running a business and eye-opening reflections about what a company owes the people it serves, It’s How We Play the Game is the insightful story of a man who built one of America's most successful companies by following his heart.
About the Author
Ed Stack is the Chairman and CEO of DICK’s Sporting Goods. Born in Binghamton, New York, he now lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife, Donna. It’s How We Play the Game is his first book.
“Ed Stack is a giant in our industry—but it wasn’t always so. He started small, experiencing many setbacks, and built a juggernaut step by step. It is those setbacks, and how he overcame them, that make for the most interesting reading. Ed’s story is not only entertaining but will be of great value to any entrepreneur.”
—Phil Knight, former Chairman and CEO of Nike and New York Times bestselling author of Shoe Dog
“In It’s How We Play the Game, Ed Stack makes the compelling case that leading with the values of sports—like hard work, teamwork and selflessness—matters in business, and most of all, society.”
—Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA
"Ed Stack's story – told with honesty and a deep sense of corporate responsibility – shows that you can build a great business and stand up for what you believe in."
—Michael Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Three-Term Mayor of New York City
“Leadership is doing the right thing when it isn’t popular or easy. Ed Stack, as this powerful book makes clear, has been that kind of leader. We can all learn from his example.”
—Mark Kelly, former combat pilot, NASA astronaut, and coauthor, with Gabrielle Giffords, of Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Save from Gun Violence
“Ed Stack has created one of the greatest retail emporiums, a nationwide chain of stores that delights the sports enthusiast every day. As this book shows, he is an entrepreneur, corporate steward, and leader of an engaged workforce, but first and foremost, he is always thinking about his customers. His intuitive instincts have led Dick’s and its employees on one of the most exciting journeys in the American retail space.”
—John Idol, Chairman and CEO of Michael Kors
“Ed Stack’s life story demonstrates the valuable lessons taught by participating in sports. While growing up in upstate New York playing baseball and other sports, Ed learned the importance of teamwork and personal relationships. Those experiences formed the leadership foundation on which he built, from his father’s single store, the largest full-line sporting goods retailer in America. Ed hasn’t just made a difference for his employees and customers. He has been an important partner with Little League Baseball and many individual teams throughout the country, working hard to ensure that every boy and girl gets to enjoy our game, regardless of their circumstances. In our society, it’s not just the people on the field who inspire, it’s leaders like Ed Stack—men and women who bend down to lift people up.”
—Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Baseball
“An awe-inspiring story of overcoming obstacles and a must read for anyone looking to understand what it takes to become successful….The book shows Ed Stack’s improbable rise from a reluctant volunteer in his father’s one-store operation to a position, decades later, as one of the country’s leading CEOs. Readers will find plenty of insight on how to manage and make tough decisions. If there were more people like Stack running companies, the world would be a better place.”
—Jimmy Dunne, Senior Managing Principal of Sandler O’Neill & Partners
“It’s How We Play the Game paints a fascinating picture of a man who is a fulfilled leader and who understands that the ethos of sport is embracing your competition. That perspective, as well as Dick’s Sporting Goods’ constant adjustments to evolving consumer habits, are just two of the factors accounting for the chain’s meteoric rise. Ed Stack’s name should be on the impressive roll call of men and women whose will to compete, and success in doing so, offers inspiration and wisdom.”
—Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA Tour
“Not many sons of founder entrepreneurs have the maturity to separate what their parent does well from what is undermining. In Ed Stack’s case, his brilliance in doing so created a business several hundred times larger than what he started with. In It’s How We Play the Game, Stack demonstrates that he’s playing a different game than other retailers, moving past all the clichés about ‘giving back’ and turning his support of local communities into a kind of killer app. More than once he has bet his company’s future on doing the right thing, and the results speak for themselves. Stack is a master of playing the long game. Few recent business books are as well-told or as rich in takeaways.”
—Jim Rohr, former Chairman of PNC Financial Services Group
“Ed Stack continues to play the game of life as well as anyone ever has. He stood tall after the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018 and his leadership on firearms forever changed our national dialogue. His authenticity, courage, and perseverance—and Dick’s Sporting Goods’ journey inspired by the Stack family—is a genuine American Dream success story.”
—Ed Herlihy, Senior Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
“Ed Stack is not just a great entrepreneur running a big, successful business, but a courageous American who is willing to stand up for what’s right. And he’s a talented author.”
—Gert Boyle, Chairman of Columbia Sportswear Company and author of One Tough Mother