A Texas Chick-fil-A on the Mike Huckabee-declared “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in 2012.
University of Georgia junior Cody Knapp came home grinning from ear to ear with a Chick-fil-A meal and a large iced tea last Wednesday.
He had been boycotting the restaurant since early August after its president said the company supported the “biblical definition of the family unit.” But shortly after it was announced last week that Chick-fil-A would cease funding anti-gay organizations through its own non-profit WinShape Foundation, Knapp, a gay man, ended his abstinence.
He sank his teeth into the restaurant’s delicious chicken sandwiches on three different days last week.
The company’s apparent reversal came after a growing list of cities and campuses began denying Chick-fil-A the right to open stores.
“Amazing what happens when you realize that people under 30 — by far the largest consumers of fast food — overwhelmingly support LGBT equal rights, including marriage, and decide that it’s important to grow the business,” the Orange County Register wrote.
But then came news that Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told talk show host Mike Huckabee that his company had not changed its policy.
While the policy change denied by Cathy — originally announced by Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno — represents positive intentions toward gays, Chick-fil-A’s confusing and contradictory statements have not enabled the company to pick up much ground in the gay community.
“I’m never going to eat Chick-fil-A like I did. I have negative feelings about the company,” Knapp said.
Knapp said that the gay community had been aware for several years of Chick-fil-A’s charitable contributions, and had avoided the restaurant’s food to varying degrees. Knapp, too, had been aware of the finances, but personally had felt fine supporting the restaurant until controversy erupted in late summer involving Cathy’s statements in support of the traditional family.
After Huckabee announced the resulting Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, Knapp knew he had to pick sides because the restaurant was becoming symbolic of a larger struggle.
“I’m from the South. They’re from the South. I get that that is how Chick-fil-A is. But Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day is what motivated me.”
Chick-fil-A brings in $4.1 billion each year and the WinShape Foundation donated about $1.1 million to “anti-gay” groups from 2003 to 2008. That number comes out to less $200,000 annually, most of which is given to organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose chief focus is ministering to athletes.
“What made [the Chick-fil-A controversy] unusual was that it has nothing at all to do with the food, the business or its employees as far as I can tell. It’s just the opinions of the owner and his support of the anti-gay marriage agenda,” said Ken Albala, a professor at University of the Pacific who studies food culture.
Khalil Farah, a first-year law student at Florida State, was not convinced the Chick-fil-A boycott was an effective means of protest.
“I think when you look back at the serious boycotts through civil rights history, like the Montgomery bus boycott, you notice they all involve serious sacrifice on behalf of the protestors,” Farah said. “This ‘boycott’ involves choosing between fast food restaurants. At worst it’s an inconvenience and at best a healthier alternative.”
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