Ahhhh, I remember the days when the only thing you associated with Chick-Fil-A was a sandwich, some waffle fries, and the best damn lemonade in the South. That, of course, was ages ago – two weeks, to be exact – and times have changed for the home of the original chicken sandwich.
Last week, news reports hit the airwaves, the papers, and the Internet simultaneously celebrating and denouncing Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s announcement that he supports traditional marriage as the law of the land. While many in the conservative Christian community lauded Cathy’s proclamation, supporters of same-sex marriage were left flummoxed, flabbergasted, and searching for a rebuttal.
They found it, in the form of a boycott.
The Boycott Debate
Perhaps ironically, the boycott itself has become a hot-bed issue. Those on the left are saying that Chick-Fil-A is intolerant and bigoted, while those on the right say those on the left areacting intolerant and bigoted. As an unbiased journalist – who reports on things from an apolitical perspective – I see the merit in both claims. It’s kind of like that old saying that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” – or, to use another cliched adage, “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Whether you’re talking about a business boycott or economic sanctions on a nation, the point is to affect change. The goal is to get the business or country to reverse its policy. That’s exactly why a boycott of Chick-Fil-A would never work – because, according to the research I’ve done, there isn’t evidence that Dan Cathy’s anti-same-sex marriage opinion is trickling down into how his company treats its customers or hires employees. Maybe supporters of gay marriage would hope to convince Cathy that all men and women deserve to marry their partner, regardless of gender, by boycotting his restaurant chain, but I don’t think abstaining from lemonade and waffle fries necessarily equates to a change of heart.
Most Businesses Have A Cause
The thing is, very few businesses – or businessmen and women, for that matter – are completely isolated when it comes to politics. It’s almost impossible to insulate the business world from the political one these days. There’s Warren Buffet, who is a staunch promoter of the Democratic agenda; on the other hand, there are businessmen like former GE CEO Jack Welch, who proudly back Romney and the Republican party.
Other examples of this lack of insularity come from within the same-sex marriage debate itself; however, these went more or less unnoticed by the mainstream press (please, no comments about the liberal media; as someone who worked in TV news for years, I can attest to the fact that there were just as many Republicans in every newsroom I ever worked in as Democrats). I’m talking about Google’s launch of the “Legalize Love” campaign, to bring global awareness to same-sex marriage rights. And let’s not forget Starbucks, who’s board of directors publicly supported a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington state to legalize these unions. Both of these companies faced opposition from same-sex marriage opponents, including threats of boycotts, although no serious repercussions resulted from either.
But Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s actions most closely parallel Dan Cathy’s and Chick-Fil-A’s. Earlier this year, Bezos made a multi-million dollar donation to that same Washington state referendum Starbucks supported. I say this parallels the Cathy announcement because, unlike the two examples outlined in the above paragraphs, this was an individual, not a company launching a campaign or taking a public position on a hot-button issue. While Cathy’s business has been threatened with a boycott and revocation of zoning permits for his stance, Bezos’s Amazon has been largely immune from a similar backlash.
What’s The Point?
I’m not trying to make a political point here, or to promote any agenda – gay or straight. Rather, I’m trying to get into your brains; under what circumstances would you support a boycott of a business? Does the Chick-Fil-A boycott make sense to you? Why or why not? Take the politics out of it, and stay true to the meaning of this blog – as a professional, how do you view Cathy’s comments and the backlash they caused from a business perspective?