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Buffalo airport disinvites Chick-fil-A from food court plans due to long-standing support for anti-LGBTQ groups – March 2019

Buffalo, NY

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) introduced plans in March 2019 to include Chick-fil-A in a concessions agreement at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which would have included the restaurant in the airport’s new food court. Critics of Chick-fil-A’s past donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations criticizeded the decision, and NFTA called off the deal with Chick-fil-A in the days following its announcement.

Key Players

Positioned to become the third-largest fast food chain in the United States, Georgia-based  Chick-fil-A is a family-owned restaurant group known for its chicken sandwiches and the conservative brand of Christianity touted by its executives.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is a public-benefit corporation responsible for overseeing public transportation in Erie and Niagara counties in western New York. NFTA supervises the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  

Further Details

Chick-fil-A has drawn intense criticism over the past decade for the politics of its owners and its financial support for anti-LGBTQ organizations. Controversial comments about same-sex marriage from Chick-fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy, and revelations about the company’s embrace of anti-LGBTQ groups prompted a nationwide boycott of the chain in 2012, according to Vox. Following the controversy, the restaurant group vowed to halt all future donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations.

A 2017 report from ThinkProgress, a progressive news outlet, revealed that the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the company’s charitable arm, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to such organizations as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Salvation Army, and Paul Anderson Youth Home, all of which are alleged to oppose LGBTQ causes..

Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D) from New York’s 149th legislative district, which includes Buffalo, had criticized NFTA’s decision to include Chick-fil-A in the concessions deal for the Buffalo airport. “As a state entity, the NFTA has a responsibility to avoid doing business with corporations who fund hateful and divisive groups,” he wrote in a public statement.

Outcome

San Antonio airport also excludes Chick-fil-A, which denies bias

Within days of publicizing the intended deal with Chick-fil-A, NFTA removed the chain from its food court plans. The decision came only days after an airport in San Antonio, Texas, also dropped Chick-fil-A from its own concessions agreement, according to food network Eater.

After being cut from the two airport deals, Chick-fil-A released a statement reading, “Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand. We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Some have criticized the airports’ move, citing Chick-fil-A’s exclusion as a violation of First Amendment rights. “Government actors cannot officially silence speech or take punitive actions based on a person’s or private entity’s political viewpoints,” New York Civil Liberties Union Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs Erika Lorshbough said in a statement to The Hill. “The First Amendment does not permit the NFTA to base its contracting decisions on the political views of a vendor.”

External References:

Chick-fil-A Dropped from Second Airport Over Support for Anti-LGBTQ Groups, Eater

Statement about NFTA deal from Assemblyman Sean Ryan

Chick-fil-A Loses San Antonio Airport Deal Over Donations to Anti-LGBTQ Groups, Eater

Niagara Frontier Transport Authority, Wikipedia

Chick-fil-A’s charitable foundation kept donating to anti-LGBTQ groups, Vox

Chick-fil-A Banished from Buffalo Airport — Another First Amendment Violation, CNSNews

Prepared by James Moore-Carrillo ‘22

Uploaded to tracker May 27, 2019