Few things are as fascinating as boycotts. For the past few decades, they have become a favorite protest tool. It seems quite natural – an organization leaves you aggrieved, so you call for a boycott of their product. Hit ‘em in the wallet, you think, and they’ll change their tune right away. Boycotts can be direct (protest a company by refusing to do commerce with them) or indirect (call for boycotts of those that associate or do business with your actual target). Sometimes, it can be effective. If a particular celebrity is caught in a crime or scandal, calls to boycott companies that the celebrity endorses often result in the endorsement deals being torn up (think Tiger Woods in 2009-10). But most of the time, the effect of the boycott is temporary or has no effect at all.
What got me thinking about this? I recently read that Rider University in central New Jersey not honor the students’ wishes and offer a campus eatery spot to Chik-Fil-A. Last spring, a poll was conducted about what eatery should be brought in. Chik-Fil-A was the preference, but the school has rejected the restaurant because it violates the school’s values of inclusion by being “widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community.”
I absolutely love the Chik-Fil-A response. “Chick-Fil-A is a restaurant company focused on food, service and hospitality, and our restaurants and licensed locations on college campuses welcome everyone. We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda,” the restaurant’s spokesperson told CBS News.
So what’s behind all this? Chik-Fil-A was founded by the late Truett Cathy, a devout Christian who was never shy about voicing his beliefs. The most obvious sign of his beliefs being played out in his restaurants was them never being open on Sunday. After his death, his son Dan became CEO. He holds the same beliefs as his father, but is even more outspoken. He has often said he does not agree with same-sex marriage or homosexuality in general, citing the Bible as the basis for his beliefs.
A great many people who hold to liberal ideologies take this to the hysterical extreme. If the CEO believes this, than that means this belief is in every aspect of the business. The CEO quotes the Bible and says he opposes same-sex marriage – that means he hates all LGBTQ+ people, which means anyone working for the company also hates all LGBTQ+ people. Chik-Fil-A is all about hate. There is no other possible conclusion. And since they hate these people, there’s no way he would ever let a gay person work at one of his restaurants, and surely every customer is scrutinized to ensure they believe as Cathy does, so they can castigate and vilify anyone who is different. That’s the way it is, since they’re all about hate, right?
Or perhaps the CEO has a personal belief system and allows it to have exactly zero effect on the operation of the business. There are gay people who have worked in the restaurants (I have crossed paths with them). No one asks anyone who they sleep with. No one gets a cold sandwich because they might not be as religious as the CEO. They actually focus on food, service and hospitality.
All I can speak from is my own experiences, and I haven’t really had any bad ones. The first time I ever had Chik-Fil-A food was when they opened a mini-store on the UNC Charlotte campus in 1989. My most recent visit to a Chik-Fil-A was to the Charlotte Overstreet Mall location in October. I have never had any trouble in the nearly 30 years of time between my first visit and most recent one. The employees are quite pleasant, and even at rush hour they do a good job at getting your food to you fairly quickly. No one has ever asked me if I’m a Christian. No one has ever looked at my wedding ring and ask if my spouse is a woman. No one ever mentioned politics. I’ve never engaged any employees in such a manner either. It’s just placing an order, paying for it and picking it up. If anyone has had an encounter where these things is a factor, that’s probably due to a single individual (or 2 of them, customer and employee) causing a conflict and not a corporate policy or belief causing a conflict.
But getting back to boycotts, they can often have the opposite of the intended effect. Chik-Fil-A is attacked regularly for the founder & CEO’s religious beliefs, and there are regular protests whenever a new restaurant is in the works. But what does that do? Let’s say you protest and Chik-Fil-A decides not to build on a certain spot. What if the spot sits vacant for a long time? The people who would have been working there – presumably teenagers, others in their first job, or people who haven’t yet built up employable skills. CEO Cathy is still getting paid every cent he would have been paid if the store had been built. But the local people who needed the employment have one fewer opportunity. So the CEO, the one you actually hate and want to punish, suffers no ill effect. And who knows – maybe some of the people who would have been working there hold the same beliefs that you hold. Your boycott has ended up punishing the people on your side instead of the religious guy on the other side. In the case of the Rider eatery, the university has added its name to the long list of self-righteous political correctness pirates who are completely out of touch with reality and insist that any views outside of their own must not only not be debated, but must be silenced. I have little respect for those who have these viewpoints.
Now, time for my confession: I looked up the NCAA basketball standings. Rider is 2-1, and ranked 150 in the RPI. I kinda hope they don’t do very well. I don’t want them to go 3-27 and people get fired. That would be hypocritical. But if they go 14-15 and then lose in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, I’ll feel like that’s a little poetic justice.