business news in context, analysis with attitude

"Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," as Wednesday was dubbed by politician and radio host Mike Huckabee, was a good day for the fast food retailer, as news reports from virtually every market it serves spoke about long lines of people that broke sales records in supporting the CEO's state stance against gay marriage.

While the company said it would not release sales figures for the day, VP Steve Robinson released a statement saying, “We are very grateful and humbled by the incredible turnout of loyal Chick-fil-A customers on August 1 at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country."

The Appreciation Day was organized after company CEO Dan Cathy made a comment to the Baptist Press that he is for the Biblical definition of marriage and against gay marriage. Those comments were widely circulated, leading some supporters of gay marriage to say that they would boycott the fast feeder; the mayors of Chicago, San Francisco and Boston even went so far as to say that Chick-fil-A would not be welcome in their cities because it did not share their citizens' values.

There also was much debate about what impact Cathy's statements would have on business long-term, and whether CEOs should be engaging in discussions of such culturally polarizing issues.

The controversy isn't over yet. Pro-gay marriage activists plan a "Kiss In" at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country today, urging people of the same sex to show up and kiss each other there.

And the Los Angeles Times reports that in Arizona, a man named Adam Smith thought it would be a good idea to videotape his confrontation with a Chick-fil-A employee in which he told him that he worked for "a horrible corporation with horrible values," and then post the video on YouTube. (The employee is shown telling Smith that it was "a pleasure to serve you, always.")

However, Smith was employed as CFO/treasurer by a company called Vante, which instantly fired him, saying, "“We respect the right of our employees and all Americans to hold and express their personal opinions. However, we also expect our company officers to behave in a manner commensurate with their position and in a respectful fashion that conveys these values of civility with others.”
KC's View:
Let's first establish that while Dan Cathy may have said he was against gay marriage, he never said he or his company would discriminate against anyone.

In that spirit, one has to love the comment made by Steve Robinson about today's "Kiss In": “We understand from news reports that Friday may present yet another opportunity for us to serve with genuine hospitality, superior service and great food."

Good for him. That's exactly the right tone to take.

And let's also stipulate that Adam Smith is a moron. On all sorts of levels.

Regardless of the outpouring of support, Chick-fil-A does have a bit of a tightrope to walk here. There have been some reports around the country about how some franchisees are distancing themselves a bit from Cathy's comments, either because they disagree with them or because they believe it is bad for business to be seen in that light.

I think it is fair to say that the Chick-fil-A issue is a hot topic at the moment, but it also is part of a longer-term cultural battle that will not be resolved anytime soon.

Now, let's move on to another issue...

To be perfectly honest, I was not going to run this story today. We'd mentioned the fact that Mike Huckabee was promoting a Chick-fil-A support day more than a week ago, and I thought we'd aired all sides of the issue pretty extensively for several days. But then I got an email yesterday, from MNB user Steve Kneepkens, that did something that very few emails do. It made me mad. Here is the email:

So we can now put you alongside MSNBC, CNN, NBC and the other partisan reporting agencies.

Chick Fill A [sic] is the top news story when they express their views that disturb you, but when consumers respond in [sic] masse and I mean in [sic] masse, not a single word.

I know your website says Retail news in CONTEXT. Really? You gave us your view that you wont [sic] eat at Chick Fill A [sic] because one of the most charitable corporations in America has Christian values. And when consumers come out in bunches to support the retailer, it all goes quiet on the western front.

Context? Lines around the corner, doubled around the block, traffic jams, people smiling without an ounce of vengeance, just silent support for a man and a company that expressed their views because a reporter asked, and you want to talk about your shoes. Shoes? Really – Shoes?

You may want to walk in the shoes of people with commitment.

This was not only THE MOST significant retail event of the day, but also the most significant cultural event. Culture and Retail collided and you cannot, did not and would not report it.

I keep reading… and waiting for the moment we have CONTEXT.


It was just a week ago that I was getting emails from people who were telling me that I should stay away from such issues because they were too culturally hot to handle, and I pretty much ignored those folks and ran virtually every email I got on the subject, many of which disagreed with my position.

Did I express a point of view? Yes. Did I allow a whole lot of other people to express theirs, regardless of whether they disagreed with me? Absolutely. I think I was fair, I think I was transparent, and I think I tried to be as understanding as possible about the fact that this is an issue about which many people have strong opinions, and many of them are different from mine.

And by the way, I never said that I would not eat at Chick-fil-A "because one of the most charitable corporations in America has Christian values." There happen to be a lot of Christian values that I agree with, even subscribe to. And there are a lot of people far more Christian than I who think that gay marriage is perfectly acceptable. You obviously don't, and have decided that anyone who disagrees with you on this issue does not subscribe to Christian values.. (It must be nice to have a hot line to the Almighty. Most people are not so lucky.) My broad position is that I don't believe traditional marriage is threatened by gay people who want to get married, and I don't think I have any right to say they can't if they want to. I said that I would not eat at Chick-fil-A because its CEO said something that sounds prejudiced and anti-civil rights to me; I also would not eat at a restaurant where the owner said he wanted to deny African-Americans or Jews or Irish people basic civil rights.

And then, after a number of politicians expressed opinions that I believed to be intolerant of Chick-fil-A's CEO's right to take a stand on this issue, I said so, and then posted pretty much all the email I got on either side of that discussion, many of which disagreed with me. (I may have the right not to eat there, but it strikes me as going a bridge too far to say that a company that meets all the legal requirements cannot build a store in a city because the mayor doesn't like his political and/or cultural positions.) The funny thing is that in many cases, the people who disagreed with me the first time around were in agreement with me on the second issue, and vice-versa.

And we were having those conversations here on MNB long before any of the other retail business sites would even touch the subject. We provided news, we provided context, and we did it before the story got hot.

Should I have mentioned the lines around many Chick-fil-A stores on Wednesday? Maybe. I actually think a legitimate criticism could be made that I ignored a big story. It may have been an error in judgement. (Note: MSNBC, NBC, CNN - the "partisan" reporting agencies you compared me to - all reported on the Chick-fil-A story.)

But my reason was not bias of any kind; I just thought that we'd pretty much talked out both sides of the story and that there was no reason to continue, lest "Your Views" end up being dominated by a cultural discussion that sometimes threatens to get ugly.

I also would not have done a piece on today's Gay Kiss In at Chick-fil-A for the same reason.

By the way ... just because the outpouring of support is aligned with your political and cultural opinion doesn't automatically make it the most significant retail and cultural event of the day. I'm not saying it wasn't, but sometimes it is important not to breathe your own exhaust.

I did the Nike story because I thought it was kind of interesting, not because I thought it was the most significant story of the day. I like to mix things up. Sorry you didn't agree. I guess I can't please everybody...

Y'know what I'm committed to? Civil discourse about a wide range of issues. I believe in not being afraid to talk about subjects that make some people nervous. Being thoughtfully provocative in all the right places. Tolerance. I believe in listening to people with whom I tend to disagree and trying to learn from them. Trusting my instincts for what is interesting and timely, and when to back off. Providing irreverent commentary when it is least expected. And, oh yes....I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. (Sorry. I got a little carried away there.)

Instead of having a knee jerk reaction to the fact that I didn't write about something and assuming it is because I disagree with your opinion on an issue, you ought to pay attention to what goes on here day after day, week after week, year after year. I'm not perfect, I make tons of mistakes, I don't always practice what I preach, but I don't think I can be accused of avoiding issues and stories just because I find them to be disagreeable or at odds with my point of view.

Give me a break.