Pittsburgh Marathon Defends Chick-fil-A Partnership

Yesterday, I blogged about the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon bringing on Chick-fil-A as the title sponsor of their youth programming, including the Chick-fil-A Kids Marathon.

People began contacting the Marathon offices known as the non-profit, P3R. Early responses indicated that the staff were in a meeting to discuss the blowback.

A few hours later, we learned that Chick-fil-A is not backing down from this partnership when they issued this statement

Pittsburgh Marathon LGBT
P3R statement on the role of Chick-fil-A as a marathon sponsor

The petition titled ‘We reject Chik-Fil-A’s sponsorship of the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon’ has nearly 250 signatures in under 24 hours and gaining each hour.

As I see it, there are 4 serious concerns about the Chick-fil-A sponsorship role

  1. Their well-documented investment in anti-LGBTQ projects and organizations, in spite of promises they made five years ago to change their ways.
  2. Their also well-documented investment in youth programming that teaches a distorted and unhealthy view of human sexuality, not just that being LGBTQ is wrong, but a hyper focus on the disproven myth that abuse in the home is the reason kids become gay. Chick-fil-A is promulgating a view of sexual health that is anathema to the welfare of all children and youth.
  3. The release of the Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests is still very fresh in our lives here in Pittsburgh. Decent, law abiding Christians of all denominations should be respectfully moving through the region with grace and gentleness, not launching sponsorships. This is not the time to put forth a #NotAllChristians #NotAllPastors mentality to defend evangelical power moves associated with Dominionism.
  4. The Marathon youth programs are focused on fostering healthy lifestyle choices. How is a fast food restaurant a solid choice to sponsor these efforts? Sure, there are healthier choices at the restaurant as with any restaurant. But there’s no getting around the fried chicken, waffle fries, and the pop. It is not appropriate to black-n-gold wash fast food as a legitimate partner in promoting healthy children (also, see above examples of the mental and emotional health consequences of the business.)

I also want to add that the CEO of Chick-fil-A lied. He is a powerful white heterosexual cisgender Chistian man and he lied about his corporate plans. How is he any different than Brett Kavanaugh or the men defending him? He lied because he could and he continues to refuse to honor his word because again, he can. The decision of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon gives him the cover he need to continue deceiving people.

Five years ago, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy vowed to stay out of the debate on LGBTQ rights and to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.” Yet the company has still not adopted an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination policy, still receives a 0 on the Human Rights Campaign’s corporate equality scorecard, and still gives generously to anti-LGBTQ causes.

Is this the very best sponsor the Marathon could find to serve the interest of Pittsburgh’s youth and children?

Probably, because as the statement above makes clear, this is about securing funding to grow the events and nothing else. It is not about finding the best possible match for the target population. It is not about moving through this region with respect and affirmation of all residents. It is about money and power.

And this will create some serious moral quandaries for organizations like the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the City of Pittsburgh – they all have strong statements around nondiscrimination. How can any of them participate in an event that is clearly not safe or respecting LGBTQ youth? We need PPS to pull out of the marathon along with every other school district and youth-centric organization. PPS just pushed Big Brothers, Big Sisters to change their procedures around working with LGBTQ adults. Surely they can see that this is just as serious? To be blunt, you can’t work with Chick-fil-A and credibly claim to be a safe space for LGBTQ youth. Period.

I don’t think this is an acceptable response. I implore you as a reader to take a few moments to sign the petition and if you know someone who is a Marathon participant, ask them to sign as well. Ask youth and teens to sign, too.

The only thing that will change this is increased public pressure and a clear, loud response from the community.


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