Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union
By now you’re aware of the Philadelphia Union’s chicken problem—specifically, its gay chicken problem.
If not, let me fill you in briefly.
The good folks at the Front Office have decided, in their infinite wisdom and careful public relations planning, to maintain a partnership with the good folks at Chick-fil-A who, in their infinite piety and careful public relations planning, just plain don’t like the queers. Some fans, specifically those who value the right to be filled in (however briefly) by the partner of their choosing, have cried fowl.*
This follows last year’s brouhaha over comments that Chick-fil-A’s top brass let slip to the press. CEO Dan Cathy claimed that those in support of same-sex marriage were “inviting God’s judgment,” which, based on my understanding of the Old Testament, is a bad thing involving plagues, insects, and the fact that no one wants God’s judgment at their table during the reception.
Of course, Chick-fil-A’s fundamentalist underpinnings, including their donations to anti-gay activist groups, were well known to anyone who followed the relationship between gay rights and chicken long before the media caught hold. (I haven’t eaten there in about 5 years for that exact reason.)
Nonetheless, the proverbial shit hit the fan. Rival protests broke out, with liberals organizing public gay make-out sessions and conservatives engaging in mass consumption of fried foods, showing the world how passive resistance can honor the memory of Gandhi and King without the need to really change one’s plans for the day.
Fast forward to the present.
We fans have been getting emails from the U touting Chick-fil-A giveaways and “Family 4 Pack” deals, which include sideline tickets and vouchers for the divinely approved meals. Fans can also vie for the title of “Family of the Game,” a moniker meant to reflect the corporation’s devotion to family, or at least to using that word as often as they do narrowly.
The online backlash has been brutal. Facebook posts from the U were flooded with protestations from incensed gay rights advocates faster than other incensed gay rights advocates could “Like” them. The FO was presumably bombarded with emails and calls, leading to an official statement from Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz himself, who was very careful not to say anything meaningful. In it, he hails the Union’s commitment to a vague inclusiveness that honors all races, religions, “beliefs,” and “choices” without going as far as mentioning sexual orientation (unless of course, he’s implying that’s a choice). A finer treading of the line between any two positions has never been seen.
Gay-friendly fans who weren’t satisfied by this took matters into their own hands, demanding a complete cutoff from the evangeli-chicken. The online campaign continued. The folks at Gay4soccer have proposed designing cards bearing an anti-CFA message for fans to hand to stadium employees. The Sons of Ben, who despise racial and homophobic slurs almost as much as they love slurs in general, put the cherry on the gay wedding cake, offering a mid-game tribute to freshly out-of-the-closet former MLS player Robbie Rogers.
As is the case in any controversy, a strong contingent emerged on the “Who Gives a Shit?” side, begging for matters of politics and religion to be kept far from PPL. It’s got nothing to do with soccer, they say, and the whole ugly issue is an excuse for the always outraged to stay outraged. What’s next? Does Dollar Dog Night support cruel factory farm practices? Have child laborers in Indonesia stitched the PPL promotional towels? Does every vendor in the park have to pass the field morality test to do business? Stand on one leg and recite the 14th amendment, sir; now let’s see if you can walk the line between freedom and sensitivity, one foot in front of the other.
I’m sorry, but…fuck that. As convenient as it would be to throw on the blinders and dismiss it all as a non-issue, for my season ticket money, this is a fight worth having. I’d urge any fan who believes in equality not to mistake laziness for nonchalance, or allow apathy to win the day for the sake of being above it all. Not opposing something wrong is almost as bad as supporting it; in the 1930’s, the Vatican signed a live-and-let-live deal between the Catholic Church and the Third Reich, long before the latter’s true intentions were clear. Look how that turned out.** Chick-fil-A goes out of its way to make people think that gay folks are beneath the rest of us. Every dollar a Union fan spends on their admittedly delicious food helps with that.
As for excessive PC overload, not fighting every battle is no excuse to fight none. I don’t like the Big Beer Industry, but just because I can’t stop Miller and Anheiser-Busch InBev from assaulting Philadelphian taste buds every game doesn’t mean I can’t raise a cry against intolerance when it’s clear it’ll be heard.
For their part, the Union claims that they are working on a “special night” for the LGBT community. That sounds nice and would be laudable, but in the end an attempt to offset bigotry with inclusiveness is a PR move, not a rejection of what’s very clearly wrong.
As fans of the team we love (and of a front office that tends to do very well by us), we should add our voices to those that would urge the U to have a zero tolerance policy for sponsors that make it their business to hate. No matter how succulent and mouthwatering that hate may be.
*PSP would like to remind readers that they are in no way responsible for the quality of Conor O’Grady’s puns.
**PSP would like to remind readers that they are in no way responsible for the hyperbole of Conor O’Grady’s analogies.