Chick-fil-A is no longer just in support of customers “Eating More Chicken” — it has also expressed support of what it calls “the biblical definition of the family unit.” That’s the Southern-hospitality way of saying it’s against gay marriage.
And the response has been uglier than dress-up-like-a-cow-and-get-a-free-chicken-sandwich-day, as boycott calls echo around the country.
Chick-fi-A isn’t the first business to face a backlash related to the hot-button issue. J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), for one, faced boycotts for its commercial featuring openly gay comedian Ellen Degeneris and its May catalog showing a lesbian couple and their daughters.
And there have been lots of other boycott-sparkers: Kraft (NYSE:KFT) Oreo’s gay pride Facebook post, Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) pro-gay stance video, General Mills’ (NYSE:GIS) opposition to a marriage amendment, Target’s (NYSE:TGT) $150 million donation to an anti-gay candidate and oh-so many more.
But gay marriage is far from the only catalyst. Check out the wide range of issues that have created controversy for companies:
- A couple months ago, Facebook users started a boycott call for Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ:SAVE) when the company refused to refund a ticket sold to a Vietnam veteran who had to cancel his flight after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. While the no-refund policy remained intact, the CEO decided to save his (and his company’s) reputation and personally refunded the money.
- More recently, word had gotten out that Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H) is accused of abusing its workers, and people (obviously) aren’t too happy. Heading the boycott: members of the National Organization of Women, the NFL Players Association and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
- U.K. Supermarket Tesco (PINK:TSCDY) wasn’t just in the spotlight for sponsoring a Gay Pride event and calling Christians evil, but for something else: spying on its customers. The company has been accused of using radio frequency identification (RFID) — small chips that are hidden on shelves and even in shopping bags — to keep tabs on customers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to complaints about the company.
- Monsanto (NYSE:MON) has been in the crosshairs for its genetically modified organisms (GMOs), especially with the release of exposé film Food Inc. But the boycott call also spread beyond the seed maker to companies like Kellogg (NYSE:K), which uses such genetically engineered ingredients in its products — even in its organic lines.
- Adidas (PINK:ADDYY) has been a popular boycott target, too … first by kangaroo-lovers, then by Arabs. The company’s use of kangaroo skin for soccer cleats caused such an uproar that Adidas finally agreed to stop last year. The controversy didn’t end, though — Adidas is now facing heat from Arab groups after sponsoring the Jerusalem Marathon.
- If we’re going to mention Adidas, we can’t forget rival Nike (NYSE:NKE), which faced global criticism and activism for over 20 years, thanks to its sweat-shop antics. The company — and the entire sportswear industry — has come a long way as a result.
- Clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) has faced numerous boycotts over the years for its sexually suggestive clothing and ads, and for inappropriate graphic tees. Some sported racist caricatures and slogans such as, “Wong Brothers Laundry Service: Two Wongs can make it white,” while others offended females with phrases like, “Who needs brains when you have these?” Maybe ANF’s recent crash was just a little karma.
- Chocolate maker Hershey (NYSE:HSY), a pick for InvestorPlace‘s Top Stocks of 2012, faced boycott calls earlier this year from AIDS activists. Why? A boarding school with ties to the company refused to admit a teenager because he was HIV-positive.
And that’s just a quick sample. A complete list of companies boycotted in response to environmental issues, animal testing and other controversial practices would take all day.