The plot has thickened in the Chick-fil-A debate, as one New Hampshire resident is speaking out against the positions that have been put forward by the company’s leadership. CEO Dan Cathy may be “guilty as charged” in his outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage, but the only franchise manager in New Hampshire has pledged to co-sponsor New Hampshire Pride Fest, a gay rights festival that will take place on August 11.
Anthony Picolia, who manages a Chick-fil-A franchise in Nashua, NH, said in a statement on the New Hampshire Pride Fest website that “in both my personal and my professional life, I have had and continue to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community. It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
His franchise of Chick-fil-A, his statement continued, has happily employed and served openly gay individuals, as well as contributing to a number of charitable organizations, and he argued that consumers should not punish him for the CEO’s beliefs. Picolia challenged individuals who are seeking to boycott anything having to do with Chick-fil-A on the basis of Cathy’s comments to “come have a conversation with me before you make assumptions or boycott my restaurant.”
Picolia’s support of the LGBT community in the face of Cathy’s statements to the opposite add nuance to questions that the Chick-fil-A debate has already raised about the role of business in activism. If franchise owners like Picolia are supporting LGBT causes, does it still make sense for consumers hoping to express their anger at Cathy’s anti-gay beliefs to boycott Chick-fil-A restaurants? To what extent do the political beliefs of a CEO affect the company culture at large, particularly in the case of franchises?
I’m interested in seeing if Cathy will respond to Picolia’s sponsorship of New Hampshire Pride. For a franchise owner to sponsor a cause that goes against the CEO’s stated values of the company could be a major source of conflict within the company, but how could Cathy respond? I can’t imagine that he would ever change the company policy to restrict the causes franchise owners can support, and in doing so risk even more backlash from the public, but I also can’t imagine that he’s fine with the Chick-fil-A name being attached to a cause that he opposes.
We’ll have to wait and see if this news provokes a response from Cathy. In the meantime, kudos to Picolia for not being afraid to separate himself from the rest of the flock.