Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

VIEWPOINT: Stop Asking Us to Boycott Chick-fil-A


You wake up ravenous, but you just can’t stomach the thought of Leo’s. You open Doordash, before remembering that article you read telling you it’s “killing local restaurants.” You could walk to Starbucks, but your friend keeps telling you not to go there, since they’re crushing unions. And Chick-fil-A is obviously off the table, because they’re anti-gay. You sigh, defeated, as you resign yourself to another day of watery eggs or your fifth bowl of vanilla yogurt this week.

Wait. Chick-fil-A is anti-gay, right? Of course it is, at least according to recent calls to boycott the company published in outlets such as Esquire and The Hoya. Although Chick-fil-A does have a homophobic history, activists calling for continued boycotts fail to realize the progress the company has made. By calling for a boycott, well-meaning activists continue to fight a battle they’ve already won, hurting the cause for equal rights and distracting from persistent social issues today.

Most calls to boycott Chick-fil-A begin by describing past homophobic actions from the company and its leadership. Their current chairman, Dan Cathy, once said that gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” And for years, the company donated money to homophobic organizations, including the American Family Association (AFA) and Family Research Council (FRC), both classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading civil rights advocacy group.

When these homophobic practices came to light in 2012, they justifiably sparked an uproar. Chick-fil-A faced a wave of negative press, and gay rights groups called for protests and boycotts. Politicians took note too, seeking to halt Chick-fil-A’s expansion into cities like Chicago. 

After a summer of intense scrutiny, Chick-fil-A caved. They promised to stop donating to organizations with “political agendas,” ceasing donations to groups such as the AFA and FRC. Activists continued to protest Chick-fil-A’s donations to other controversial nonprofits, and in 2019 the company reorganized its donation policy to focus exclusively on “hunger, homelessness, and education.” They now donate over $5 million a year to food banks, college readiness programs and more.

Activists acknowledge that Chick-fil-A has stopped its overtly homophobic practices, but claim that the company’s profits still indirectly support hate. The most recent complaint against Chick-fil-A came in a 2021 Daily Beast article, which listed Cathy among Christian billionaires “funding a push to kill the Equality Act.” The Daily Beast supports its bold claim by citing Cathy’s recent donation to the National Christian Foundation (NCF), a nonprofit that grants millions of dollars a year to homophobic organizations. 

The Daily Beast’s reporting quickly spread to other organizations, sparking renewed calls to boycott Chick-fil-A. However, unlike traditional nonprofits, the NCF allows donors to allocate their donations over time to specific nonprofits of the donor’s choosing, meaning any grants to homophobic groups were initiated by donors, rather than the NCF. Although this structure conceals which entities finally receive donations, it’s a common method of giving often used to simplify tax filing. It’s unclear which organizations Cathy directed his money towards, but there’s no evidence it was sent to anti-LGBTQ groups.

Critics may argue that Chick-fil-A’s new policies don’t matter. Sure, they’ve reformed, but only to protect their bottom line. The organization is still run by a homophobe who has never disavowed his previous beliefs, so no moral person should eat there again. 

These critics are right — Chick-fil-A likely changed its donation policies for purely economic reasons. But the company took a risk by changing its donation policies and offending some right-wing customers. After Chick-fil-A’s 2019 donation overhaul, 120,000 people signed a digital petition from the AFA, accusing Chick-fil-A of having “caved to the LGBTQ activists and their illegitimate complaints.” The Family Research Council accused the company of “waving a white flag on God’s truth.” 

Chick-fil-A likely predicted this backlash, but still made these changes because they believed they would win back more business from gay rights supporters than they’d lose from bigots. If gay rights advocates permanently withhold our business from Chick-fil-A, we’ll send the message that stepping away from hateful causes was a mistake, and companies will be less likely to listen to our demands in the future. 

Maybe you’ll still choose not to eat at Chick-fil-A. You have the right to pick the companies you support, and I respect you for standing by your convictions. But before you try to rally support for your cause, consider whether it’s worth the cost of diverting our collective bandwidth away from other pressing issues. So please — keep fighting for equal rights. If you pick the right battles, you can make a real difference.

Nate Morris is a first-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences.

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    David LipscombFeb 29, 2024 at 10:40 am

    A wonderfully provocative piece. Thank you for reminding us to check the facts for ourselves before boycotting.