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Statements Address Duke's Chick-fil-A Affiliation

Paul Steinbach

Tuesday saw two official statements issued relating to Duke University's season-opening football game against Alabama. The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is scheduled for Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The Duke Student Government Executive Board issued a statement calling into question the Blue Devils' affiliation with the game's title sponsor. It reads, in part: "As an institution that prides itself on its diversity and inclusion, we, as representatives for the undergraduate student body, find it disappointing that Athletics would sign on to a game supported by an organization that has publicly expressed its disdain for the LGBTQ community."

After pointing out Duke's history of both repressing LGBTQ expression and, more recently, opening a Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and expanding related courses, the DSG Board goes on to note, "Athletics’ business agreement with Chick-fil-A is in conflict with Duke’s present commitment to continue support for the queer community. In an era of growing homophobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, as evidenced by recent events on campus, the university should not prioritize relationships with hurtful businesses over its marginalized students."

Chick-fil-A has a history of supporting anti-LGBTQ causes, according to the DSG Board's statement, which bemoans Duke's apparent attitude regarding the controversy surrounding the game's title sponsor. "It’s disheartening to learn that, according to the Duke LGBTQ Network, Athletics’ only response was a justification that the contract was signed three years ago. This is not an excuse; Chick-fil-A’s attitudes against the queer community have been known well before that time. The decision to sign onto this game without consideration for its implications on Duke’s queer community calls into question the university’s values."

According to the The Chronicle student newspaper, it received the DSG Board's statement prior to the release of an official statement from Duke administration regarding the controversy. That statement, issued by university president Vincent Price and Kevin White, vice president and director of athletics, and reported by The Chronicle shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday, reads:

In light of Duke’s participation in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and the concerns that have been expressed about the title sponsor, we proudly reaffirm our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. 

We stand together with our LGBTQ+ colleagues -- along with all of our students, teammates, faculty, alumni and friends -- to fight for equality and to demand freedom from fear and hatred.

We stand together to recognize the great significance of every individual.

We stand together to condemn any effort to legislate, mandate, or facilitate bias and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, immigration status, or national origin.

By standing together, we seek to make our campus more just and inclusive, and to carry these values to the wider world. Let this be a notice that the Duke community not only defends but celebrates the humanity of all people.

At the time it reported Duke's statement, The Chronicle also shared immediate reaction.

“It’s disappointing to see the University’s actions contradict its statement of support for the LGBTQIA+ community,” wrote senior Manish Kumar, DSG vice president of academic affairs and a cosigner of the DSG Board's statement, in a message to The Chronicle. “Considerations should be taken in the future so marginalized voices get a say in decisions like these.”

"The Duke LGBTQ Network is pleased to see the university condemn the widely documented efforts against the LGBTQ community by Chick-fil-A and its affiliates," wrote Alex Osmond, president of the Duke LGBTQ Network, in an email to The Chronicle.

Chick-fil-A did not immediately respond to the paper's request for comment. The Durham, N.C., campus currently accommodates one Chick-fil-A store, located in the Duke University Medical Center.

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