Editorials

Offended by KU’s on-campus Chick-fil-A? We hear Popeyes has a good chicken sandwich

Popeyes new chicken sandwich sold out, for now.

Popeyes president, Felipe A. Athayde, says their new chicken sandwich has sold out but it will be back.
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Popeyes president, Felipe A. Athayde, says their new chicken sandwich has sold out but it will be back.

The Sexuality & Gender Diversity Faculty and Staff Council at the University of Kansas says it’s combating hate by protesting the school’s decision to relocate an on-campus Chick-fil-A restaurant to a prominent spot in the student union.

This week, the faculty group sent a letter to KU Chancellor Doug Girod, the provost’s office and the athletic department voicing their concerns. “KU granted Chick-fil-A, a bastion of bigotry, a prime retail location in the heart of our campus,” the letter read.

The council does important work advocating for LGBTQ people on campus. But the group is likely fighting a losing battle by demanding that administrators tear up a recently signed five-year contract between KU and the restaurant chain.

The University of Kansas appears committed to keeping Chick-fil-A — and the cash that comes with it. But for those who don’t like the political views underlying the ultra-popular spicy chicken sandwich, the solution should be simple: Vote with your feet and eat elsewhere.

KU receives about $60,000 per year in leasing fees to house the eatery, which, until recently, had operated for 15 years in a lower-profile location: the basement of KU’s Wescoe Hall. Interim Provost Carl W. Lejuez told The Star that the move to the student union was made to save about $2.6 million that would have been spent on upgrades to Wescoe as required by the restaurant contract.

The university’s athletic department also benefits from a new sponsorship deal dubbed the “Chick-fil-A Coin Toss” at the start of Jayhawks home football games.

While Chick-fil-A’s presence on campus has been lucrative for KU, the restaurant has become a lightning rod of sorts across the country as a result of its owner’s discriminatory views. The Georgia-based chain has donated millions of dollars through its foundation to support anti-gay rights groups, and continued to do so as recently as 2017. Several years ago, conservative owner Dan Cathy publicly condemned same-sex marriage.

“We’re 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,” Cathy once said.

We don’t share — or defend — his intolerance. But Chick-fil-A is not the only company led by executives with indefensible views. The fast-food restaurant just happens to have a controversial owner who was unwise enough to go public with his thoughts.

Plenty of other powerful CEOs have simply been less vocal about their self-serving or unpopular worldviews — likely a wise business decision.

Luxury fitness brands Equinox and SoulCycle recently faced a boycott after it was revealed that billionaire majority owner Stephen Ross was hosting a fundraiser for President Donald Trump. The backlash was swift and immediate.

But if we protested all the businesses led by executives whose views were less than palatable, our options for eating, shopping and playing would be awfully limited. Not every meal nor every purchase needs to be a political statement. Many who patronize Chick-fil-A really do just like the waffle fries.

Putting Chick-Fil-A in the student union is not an attack on the LGBTQ community. It’s a business decision.

Yes, KU should consider the concerns expressed by the group. But faculty, staff and students upset with the university are empowered to act as well: Don’t spend your money at a restaurant with an owner who champions discrimination against marginalized groups.

Meanwhile, word is that Popeyes has a really good chicken sandwich.

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