Back when AATTP was a mere hatchling of a blog, the airwaves were abuzz with Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s public decision to take his (“Christian”) company into the political arena by joining the fight against gay marriage. Before going any further, let us take a moment to remember what Cathy said on the Ken Coleman show, in June of 2012:
“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Almost immediately, Cathy began pouring bucket-loads of cash into anti-gay organizations, including $1.1 million sent to the Family Research Organization, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Cathy even created a whole separate group called the Chick-fil-A Foundation, to quietly funnel private money to these groups.
Of course, protests by LBGT groups followed, as did petitions on college campuses banning Chick-fil-A from the property; Pasadena, California is one such recent example. Whole cities, like Boston, forbade Chick-fil-A from opening new franchises. Regardless, the Right got to momentarily revel in the fact that, in its moment in the public eye, Chick-fil-A’s profits soared to an all-time high. All publicity, it seemed, was good publicity; a few months after Cathy’s statements, his company’s earnings seemed to be on an unstoppable march up to the peaks of success. But a funny thing happened on the way up the mountain.
A few months after the statement, earnings reports from the privately owned Chick-fil-A (which is under no obligation to report its earnings) just sort of…stopped. Go ahead…Google “Chick-fil-a earnings history.” Everything goes strangely silent later in the 2012 financial year. Hmmm. Fascinating.
More fascinating yet was that immediately after all went quiet on the Western Front, Chick-fil-A ceased most of its donations to anti-gay hate groups. As of 2014, they were down to one: a $25,000 donation to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Strange how the Right didn’t advertise this latest little shift in policy. Dan Cathy, on the other hand, is now advertising it in spades.
On March 14th, as he watched numerous beer sponsors (including Sam Adams, Heineken and Guinness) pulling sponsorship dollars from St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston , Cathy sang an entirely different tune. Very contritely, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his company’s new tune was a matter of “personal growth” on his part:
“Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development and it helps by (recognizing) the mistakes that you make. And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it.”
Ah…ye olde celebrity/politician “I’ve been to rehab and I’m all better now” defense. Gotcha. Later parts of the same interview give a slightly more, shall we say, “thorough” explanation of what happened during Cathy’s road-to-Damascus epiphany.
“Probably the elements that were stressful for me most is from our internal staff and from operators and how this may be affecting them. The bottom line is we have a responsibility here to keep the whole of the organization in mind and it has to take precedence over the personal expression and opinion on social issues.
Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with. And it’s probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.”
“I really shouldn’t have opened my big mouth to pander to homophobes on the far right. Customers hate us, employees hate us…Hell, whole CITIES hate us. The only people who don’t have moved on to whining on Facebook about the Obama-thing meme-of-the-week, and 99% of them couldn’t afford a chicken sandwich to begin with. Crap.”
Even more to the point, those who can afford chicken sandwiches have been heading to other fast-food chains like McDonald’s, which offer better chicken and lower-calorie menus. Of course, McDonalds isn’t free of its fair share hate, but at least that hate is universal. It’s not constrained to fairly spendy demographics like college students and members of the LBGT community.
Yes, homosexuals have money, too. And, as a rule, they’re not spending it on new shoes for the kids. Turns out the Free Market works (in some cases), after all.
Selling hate is like selling bundled derivatives of bad mortgages: Always a short-term gain, long-term loss proposition. Some in the middle might profit for a little while, but it just doesn’t work as a long-term business strategy. Hate is a fast-burning sugar…good for a quick rush, but lacking in the long-term sustainable value of protein.
Even if that protein comes from large servings of crow.
h/t: Daily Kos