Protestors Critique Chick-fil-A... from Atop a Zamboni

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday April 16, 2019

Fast food franchise Chick-fil-A — which has made headlines recently for supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations and being denied franchises at city airports thanks to the ongoing perception of the company as hostile to sexual minorities — found itself entangled in a whole new controversy when protesters riding a branded Zamboni at a hockey game revealed signs reading "Chick-fil-A is anti-gay," reported multiple media sources.

The protest took place during intermission at an April 13 Cincinnati Cyclones match against the Kalamazoo Wings. The protestors rode the Chick-fil-A Zamboni out on to the ice carrying what looked like a birthday message — but hidden inside the birthday greeting were placards taking the company to task. The protesters broke out their placards as the Zamboni driver piloted the machine around the rink.

"Chick-fil-A can give free chicken to all the babies and centenarians it wants," opined The in a story about the escapade, "but until the company reckons with its publicly discriminatory practices, it's going to keep getting dragged into the spotlight at inconvenient moments. Like, for instance, in the middle of a Cincinnati Cyclones game."

Local news station WLWT tweeted about the story as part of its coverage.

The tweet garnered messages both for and against the company.

"I don't like @ChickfilA politics OR food," one comment read. "So I don't eat at @ChickfilA."

Another was quick to post a differing view: "Thanks for confirming my lunch choice for Monday! @ChickfilA, here I come!"

The CEO of the company famously decried marriage equality in 2012, declaring that to permit same-sex families the same legal rights as their heterosexual countrymen would be tantamount to "inviting God's judgment on our nation," and Chick-Fil-A has been firmly embroiled in the culture wars ever since, with a conservative-driven "Day of Appreciation" on the anti-gay side and a longstanding boycott among some LGBTQ equality advocates and their allies.

Though the company had officially stepped back from the culturally divisive issue of marriage equality, its corporate culture still lacks specific protections for LGBTQ employees. Moreover, it recently came to light that tax records show the company's foundation doled out almost $2 million in 2017 to a trio of overtly anti-gay organizations, with the bulk of the money — more than $1.5 million — going to the fellowship of Christian Athletes, which ThinkProgress reported "is a religious organization that seeks to spread an anti-LGBTQ message to college athletes and requires a strict 'sexual purity' policy for its employees that bars any 'homosexual acts.' "

The Cincinnati Cyclones also took to Twitter, denouncing the action as not being "family friendly" and apologizing for any offense the signs might have caused.

"The Cincinnati Cyclones & U.S. Bank Arena do not condone this type of behavior or the messaging expressed," the Cincinnati Cyclones tweet read, with a second tweet adding, "These actions do not align with the family-friendly atmosphere that we aim to provide. Chick-fil-A has been a wonderful partner and we are thankful for their on-going support."

No signs will be allowed on the Chick-fil-A Zamboni from now on, according to a spokesperson named Everett Fitzhugh, who spoke about the incident the following day. Fitzhugh also noted that the seven people who flashed the signs while riding the Zamboni were told never to return to the stadium, under pain of arrest for trespassing.

"Moving forward, we have adopted a 'no signage' policy on the Fan Zam, and we will be monitoring all riders to make sure something like this doesn't happen again," said Fitzhugh.

But one city council member took the team to task for its apparently mixed messages.

"Can't have it both ways Cincinnati Cyclones," Councilman Chris Seelbach said in a social media post, according to "You can't pretend to be LGBT friendly by hosting a pride night, but also have anti-gay Chick-fil-A as a sponsor."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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